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State retirees won't get pension increase

COLUMBIA — South Carolina's state retirees won't see their pension checks increase this year for the first time in five decades, but the president of the State Retirees Association said Friday that's what they bargained for in a new law.

State retirement system records dating back to the 1960s show pension pay increased every year until now.

"We don't have a thing to complain about. We participated in the writing of that law," association President Sam Griswold said.

Under last year's law change, automatic cost of living adjustments for retired wage earners and clerical workers match inflation increases up to 2 percent in the consumer price index. The index fell between December 2007 and December 2008, Mr. Griswold said.

That snapshot method, Mr. Griswold said, meant the increase in fuel prices throughout much of 2008 was erased by sharp declines in the fourth quarter that held the inflation index down.

Pensioners m ight end up losing money later this year because the state's health insurance plan needs to raise premiums, Mr. Griswold said.

Rate increase to cover reactors' cost weighed

COLUMBIA — Utility regulators will take up a request by South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. to begin charging higher rates now to help pay for two planned nuclear reactors.

The state Public Service Commission has until the end of the month to decide on the company's request, which is on the agenda for a meeting Wednesday. The state's utility watchdog agency has recommended it be approved.

The company says it needs to build the reactors in Fairfield County to meet growing electricity demand. Opponents say the company has overestimated demand and underestimated the cost.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth notes the Department of Energy estimates a single reactor will cost $9 billion, compared with SCE&G's estimate of $10 billion for both.

Embezzlement suspect makes plea agreement

COLUMBIA — One of the eight co-defendants of a state official charged with embezzling millions in taxpayer money has reached a plea agreement with South Carolina prosecutors.

Gwendolyn Robinson has agreed to help prosecutors with their case in exchange for a sentence recommendation, court documents filed this week show.

Ms. Robinson faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. She and seven others were arrested last month and charged with cashing checks written by former Department of Social Services finance director Paul Timothy Moore.

Mr. Moore has been charged as the ringleader of a scheme to embezzle $5.5 million.

Authorities say one defendant gave Mr. Moore a list of people who might be willing to participate.

Ex-director to serve prison term for fraud

COLUMBIA — The former director of health services in South Carolina prisons will serve a three-year fraud sentence in a North Carolina prison.

Russell Campbell was convicted last week of obtaining property by false pretenses and making a false statement related to a life insurance policy he took out on his father in 2002.

He was transferred Friday, South Carolina prisons spokesman Josh Gelinas said.

A judge also ordered Mr. Campbell to pay more than $50,000 in restitution to Auto-Owners Life Insurance Co. - the amount the company paid when Mr. Campbell's father died in 2005.

Mr. Gelinas said Mr. Campbell resigned last month and supervised all health care workers in the prison system.

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