Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell introduced the idea of allowing customers of electric cooperatives to vote on the level of pay and benefits co-op board members should receive. The decision was postponed by the commission until next month.
According to an article in The Advocate, commission staffers introduced rules Friday that ban providing co-op board members health insurance, add term limits, and limit how much they are paid. The two Democratic commissioners, Campbell of Bossier Parish and Lambert Boissiere III of New Orleans expressed concern that the three Republican commissioners would not support the new rules.
The vote proposed by Campbell would require co-op board members to inform each customer of how much they are paid then ask if they approve the pay.
’’If they vote ‘yes,’ then you get the money. If they vote ‘no,’ you don’t,‘’ Campbell said.
Campbell said that board members receive an average pay of approximately $27,000 which is more than the average local school board member or state legislators.
There are 11 cooperatives throughout the state of Louisiana servicing just under half of the state’s population.
State co-op board members who are not supposed to be paid were highlighted by state regulators in September for receiving large per diem payments, health insurance and other benefits.
Electric cooperatives were formed in 1936 to provide electricity to rural areas without enough residents to prove profitable for private companies. As suburbs of large cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge grew, cooperatives went from serving a few hundred people, to in some cases – tens of thousands.
Jeff Arnold of the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives questioned if Commissioners had the authority to decide how the co-ops should operate.