Avista CEO’s pay hits $3.5 million


Utility’s improved performance largely led to $250,000 increase

Avista Corp. CEO Scott Morris’ total compensation increased by $250,000 last year, to $3.5 million, due in large part to the company’s improved financial performance, Avista said in a detailed report to Washington state regulators.

Of the $9.5 million paid to all company officers, about 42 percent came from customers’ rate payments in its three-state service area, Avista said in the report. That last figure was required by order of the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission.

Customers in Washington, which represents Avista’s largest service territory, paid $2.4 million of the company officers’ $9.5 million in compensation through their rates. Idaho customers paid $1.2 million, and Oregon customers paid about $560,000.

Morris received base pay of $662,000 in 2011, up from $630,000 the previous year, according to Avista’s preliminary proxy statement. Morris’ base pay had not been adjusted since 2008 and was below market rates, Avista said in its preliminary proxy statement.

In addition, Morris – who is also chairman of the company’s board – was eligible for short-term and long-term incentive plans. Total compensation also includes the value of his pension and deferred compensation, $890,000, and $49,000 in employer matching funds, the report said.

Other executives’ total compensation reported to the state include:

• Mark Thies, senior vice president and chief financial officer: $945,000

• Dennis Vermillion, senior vice president and environmental compliance officer: $1.11 million

• Marian Durkin, senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer: $911,000

• Karen Feltes, senior vice president and corporate secretary: $962,000

Avista released a statement Wednesday saying its executive compensation is in the midrange for similar utilities its size. On a $150 electric and gas bill, about 75 cents of the customer’s payment would go toward executive compensation, said Jessie Wuerst, company spokeswoman.

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