- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana Public Service Commission members spent nearly two hours quizzing Cleco CEO Bruce Williamson about why he wants to sell the publicly traded utility based in Pineville.

The Town Talk reports (https://townta.lk/1AX23aw) Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, called Wednesday for Williamson’s resignation.

Much of Cleco’s operations are in Holloway’s district, and he called for Williamson to quit or for the company’s board of directors to fire him because Holloway claims Williamson is only interested in selling, not improving the company.

“We are not for sale,” Williamson answered, “but we have a fiduciary duty to review a proposal when it is received.”

Holloway complained that he talked to Williamson and other Cleco officials prior to the PSC recently renewing the company’s rate structure, essentially guaranteeing its stability, and he was never told that an offer was on the table.

“I asked out of the clear blue ‘What is going on? And you said nothing’,” Holloway said. “That shows you are not taking care of us. The CEO has lost the trust of the LPSC, its regulator.”

Williamson said federal law prohibited him from talking about the offer, but Holloway said he read about it days after their discussion, so “I’m not satisfied with that.”

Holloway said he believes it’s a mistake that Williamson would get $29 million if the company is sold and that board members would get $20 million.

“I find that outrageous,” he said. “I believe you should resign.”

After asking other questions, Holloway was told Williamson has an $11 million buyout clause in his contract.

“Even a reduced amount of $11 million is a lot of money to get rid of a bad egg,” he said.

He said the board should be concerned that Williamson’s former employer filed for bankruptcy just after Cleco hired him.

After questioning that showed the company is operating at a profit, never missed paying dividends and is on sound financial footing with upgrades from bond rating agencies, Holloway asked, “So why is the company for sale then, if it’s so strong?”

Williamson repeated that it was not for sale but was considering an offer.

Chairman Eric Skrmetta joined Holloway in criticizing Cleco’s handling of the situation. He said that since the commission has final approval over a sale, Williamson should not ask approval of any plan that disassembles it or turns it into a foreign corporation.

___

Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com

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