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More allegations of corruption surface at DEMCO

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CENTRAL- Following a tumultuous summer that led to the abrupt resignation of longtime employee and CEO John Vranic at DEMCO, there are more allegations of corruption at the state's largest electric cooperative.

DEMCO's longtime Board President Richard Sitman spent 20 years in that role. Last week, he resigned as Board President but still remains on the Board. DEMCO's announcement last week made it appear Sitman wanted to give someone else a turn. What was left out of that announcement is he was confronted with allegations DEMCO paid thousands of dollars for work on a personal communications tower he's tied to. He stepped down as Board President immediately, according to Vice President of the Board Steve Irving.

That tower is located in Greensburg.

Text messages obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit indicate a worker asked CEO John Vranic in 2016 about repairing lights and a transformer at the site. Vranic responded to that worker,"get with me in the morning."

According to Vice President of the Board Steve Irving, Vranic authorized the work. DEMCO paid for it according to invoices that show $3,428 was billed to DEMCO for the work on the private tower that has nothing to do with DEMCO.

Irving told WBRZ, once Sitman was confronted about the allegations he resigned as Board President, but didn't say that's why he was resigning.

This afternoon, Public Service Commissioner Dr. Craig Greene released the following statement:

"...It is my understanding that his stepping aside can be, at least partly, attributed to findings in the ongoing audit. DEMCO customers should see this as a sign that the audit is looking throughout all levels of leadership within the company in an effort to restore trust with its members..."

The latest allegation of corruption comes after Vranic stepped down in June. It came following WBRZ Investigative Unit reports that showed a $14,000 generator DEMCO purchased was found at his house.

Vranic said he did not steal a generator and paid for it. Sources told WBRZ, Vranic paid for it once the allegations of theft surfaced.

With more allegations of corruption at Louisiana's largest electric cooperative, Irving said he wants the public to know no one is condoning this.

Irving added, the board members are asking Sitman to reimburse DEMCO for the work it paid for on his tower. Multiple calls to Sitman were not returned. Sitman sold the communications tower that is now at the center of controversy in April.

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