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ISSUE 8.42
Oct. 16, 2009

RECENT ISSUES:
12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13

Index

News :
Prison war
Legislative Agenda :
Reforming sentences, taxes
Radar Screen :
Restructure this
Palmetto Politics :
Screw-up central
Commentary :
Ozmint needs to take medicine or hit the road
Spotlight :
S.C. Hospital Association
My Turn :
Continuing to build SC's economy
Feedback :
Ban wage discrimination
Scorecard :
Up, down and in the middle
Stegelin :
Helpful hints
Megaphone :
Angry white guys
In our blog :
In the blogs
Encyclopedia :
Inter-State and West Indian Exposition

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

6,900

OVEREXTENDED:  6,900.  That’s how many out of work South Carolinians may stop getting unemployment checks next week, when a 13-week extension ends, unless the federal government steps in. Again.   More.

MEGAPHONE

Angry white guys

"I'm not going to leave the Republican Party. I'm going to grow it. We're not going to be the party of angry white guys."
 
-- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) responding to catcalls this week at a recent public forum that he should join the Democratic Party. More.

IN OUR BLOG

In the blogs

Richie Rich. Wolfe Reports, fresh from digging through campaign contribution reports, was “surprised” to see that state Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), a close ally of Gov. Mark Sanford, was so friendly with school voucher proponent Howard Rich:
 
“According to the latest disclosure report, Davis got $10,000 from Rich shell corporations. Get ready, boys and girls. It seems Herr Rich isn’t done with South Carolina yet.”
 
Health care bears. Adam Fogle at Palmetto Scoop included video on a post about another town hall:
 
“The knuckledragger brigade was out in full force Monday night at a health care reform town hall held by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham at Furman University in Greenville.”

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Inter-State and West Indian Exposition

Held in Charleston from December 1, 1901, to June 20, 1902, the West Indian Exposition followed world's fairs in other southern cities such as Atlanta (1881, 1895), New Orleans (1884-1886), and Nashville (1897). While many of the city's traditional merchants and bankers were uninterested, the idea gained support from the city's progressive young businessmen.

Under the leadership of Frederick C. Wagener, Charleston's Exposition Company raised money through private and corporate subscriptions to stock, a municipal bond issue, state government, and donations of convict labor. The company acquired the lands of the old Washington Race Course and the adjacent Lowndes farm, lying north of the city along the Ashley River. The company hired Bradford Lee Gilbert, a New York-based architect and the supervising architect of Atlanta's Cotton States Exposition (1895), to oversee the design and construction of the landscape and buildings.

The goal of the exposition was to stimulate trade through the city's harbor, where traffic had steadily decreased since the Civil War. In the wake of the Spanish-American War, the exposition's proponents sought to position Charleston as the principal port of exchange between the United States and the Caribbean and Latin America. However, the federal government did not give the exposition its formal approval until just before the start, and no foreign governments sent official exhibits. Poor weather, a late installation of many exhibits, and a chronic shortage of funds all contributed to the poor financial results of the exposition.

After the end of the exposition, the city of Charleston acquired the eastern portion of the grounds containing the formal court and main buildings for use as Hampton Park. In the 1910s the state acquired the western portion of the grounds along the Ashley River for the new campus of The Citadel.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Bruce G. Harvey. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

More.

PALMETTO PRIORITIES

Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.

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News

Prison war

Audit, meant to clear the air, roils waters

By Bill Davis, senior editor

OCT. 16, 2009 -- A long-awaited audit of the S.C. Department of Corrections released this week turned up little wrong, but did little to bring to an end the ongoing fight between legislators and the agency’s oft-criticized director, Jon Ozmint.

In some ways, the report compiled by the state Legislative Audit Council was a vindication for Ozmint.

               
The just-released report found little significantly wrong at the department, peppering its conclusions with fairly bland recommendations, many of which were already being adhered to, according to Ozmint.
               
Perhaps the biggest revelation contained in the report was that Corrections -- whose director has complained consistently that his agency has been woefully under-funded -- had reported an officer-to-inmate ratio of 9.1:1, but the council found it was actually 6.1:1.
               
Brewing criticism
 
The director has been under constant criticism from an especially vocal state Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter). Last month in an open letter to Gov. Mark Sanford demanding Ozmint’s removal, Leventis alleged Ozmint was everything from being arrogant and a bully to a bad manager and someone just short of a liar.
               
But the vanilla findings of the new auditwere a far cry from the Neapolitan allegations Leventis has been leveling. That didn’t, however, mean Leventis or Ozmint this week stopped firing on each other or the audit.
               
Ozmint, in an at times blistering 20-page response to the report, criticized the investigation for being biased, politically motivated, and not up to the audit council’s standards.
               
LAC director Tom Bardin declined to comment on the response, preferring to let his office’s report speak for itself.
               
But state Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville) said responding to Ozmint’s charges: “The [Corrections] director is a friend of mine, and my friend is wrong.” Fair is a non-voting member of the LAC with full access to the investigation, as well as the chair of the Corrections and Penology Committee in the Senate.
               
Fair, who has criticized his friend, Ozmint, in the past for his language and arrogance, said he was disappointed in the Corrections director’s response. “I was surprised by the vitriol in his response,” he said.
               
“If I could broker a peace” between Corrections and the legislature, said Fair, “I would consider my tenure as chair a success. Something has to change.”
               
Feisty responses
 
The language in Ozmint’s response gave proof that his trademark feistiness was still intact.
               
“This audit was born of a failed witch hunt,” wrote Ozmint, before admitting that his was not a perfect agency. The response went on to allege that the report misused the word “several,” as well as re-hashed the fight over the LAC’s early attempts to survey employee morale, in which Ozmint sent out an accompanying note about his problems with the process.
               
Leventis, not one to back down, described Ozmint’s response this week as a “rant,” and did little to shy away from the fight.
               
“Mr. Ozmint, based on his response, appears to be exactly what he is, a political operative,” said Leventis, who continued to call for Ozmint‘s firing. “What South Carolina really needs is a competent and capable administrator.”
               
Leventis criticized Ozmint for his agency’s record in paying out on lawsuits filed against it by employees and former employees, specifically two administrators who were found guilty in a civil conspiracy case against a former warden.
               
The audit also showed a significant increase in legal fees and settlements since Ozmint took office in 2003. Ozmint’s response criticized the report for not taking into account a claimed 90-percent increase in lawyer fees from 2000 to 2008.
               
Agency response
 
Corrections spokesman Josh Gelinas responded to some of the criticisms and concerns Friday morning.
               
As for the difference in officer to inmate ratios, Gelinas didn’t argue with the LAC’s findings, but added that the department “operates with fewer resources per inmate and as percentage of state budget than at least 48 other states. In addition, I would ask our critics to note that even at one officer to six inmates, that ratio is still13 percent higher than the Southern states' average.”
               
Lewis Cromer, a Columbia attorney who has regularly sued Corrections as well as other state agencies and departments on behalf of state employees, said the report didn’t include the last year and a half in settlements and legal fees.
               
According to Cromer, his recent cases have resulted in close to double the “$400,000” in expenses and settlements the agency had paid out through June of 2008 “in 2008-09 and again in the first four months of 2009-10 alone.”
               
Part of Ozmint’s response was that Corrections are the most sued federal and state agencies.
               
Report literally hits home
 
Another part of the audit really hit home with Ozmint. Literally. Echoing past recommendations, the audit council’s report also called for Corrections to sell or find another use for the director’s home, a current perk of the job.
               
Corrections’ response: “Let’s be frank about this as well: This topic of inquiry simply mimics the partisan rants of Senator Leventis, who included a budget proviso on this topic last year and hopes to use this recommendation to force Director Ozmint’s family to move out of the director’s house.
               
“His hypocrisy and partisanship are clear: this is a suggestion that he has never made during decades of [D]emocratic administrations and one that he has never made about other state employees who live in state housing. It is another attempt to intimidate in his continuing campaign of retribution against the Agency Director.”
               
Fair said he was “amazed” by this part of the response, and said that there had been calls to redefine the house dating back over a decade. “Mr. Ozmint was not being singled out,” he said.
               
What’s next
 
Fair said his committee would review the report and responses when the legislature reconvened, but wasn’t sure what the next step would be.
               
Corrections spokesperson Gelinas said Friday that the department enjoyed a good relationship with most legislators, and that if any, including Fair, had concerns, Ozmint would be glad to receive them.
               
Additionally, Gelinas said Ozmint stood by the tone of his response, saying he believed it appropriate.
 
Crystal ball: The fight over Corrections is far from over. Leventis says the governor has yet to fully respond to his letter. Cromer’s various suits will move forward. Fair said Leventis was far from the only legislator calling for changes, “it’s a group of four or five senators.” And Ozmint isn’t backing down.
 
Legislative Agenda

Reforming sentences, taxes

There are two significant state meetings next week. One, the Sentencing Reform Commission will meet on Wednesday at 2 p.m. in 308 Gressette. Two, the S.C. Taxation Realignment Commission will meet the same day at 10 a.m. in 105 Gressette, where it will reconvene every two to three weeks at the same time and day of the week through January 6.

Radar Screen

Restructure this

If a Senate panel’s decision this week not to recommend putting DHEC in the governor’s cabinet in the future was an omen of things to come, then don’t expect the legislature to make good on any of its restructuring goals.

DHEC is known to be a nightmare to supervise and oversee because of the amount of bad press it generates -- people either complain it hamstrings business or it doesn’t do enough protecting the environment. Many Statehouse insiders say DHEC should have been one of the first to be thrown onto the governor’s plate. Instead, not restructuring it may mean that the Employment Security Commission is going nowhere, too, or any other agency.
Palmetto Politics

Screw-up central

Revelations this week that the state Employment Security Commission may have failed to fully inform state legislators and commissioners as to the need to make some changes to the state’s unemployment system to keep additional federal unemployment assistance flowing sounded eerily familiar.
 
For the past year, the ESC, the state unemployment agency, has been flooded with criticisms that it failed to inform the legislature and the governor’s office as to the looming shortfall caused by a soured economy and reduced paycheck withholding amounts. Its director argued that it did inform legislators, who shot back at the time that the agency didn’t do an adequate job of informing them.
 
As a result, the state has had to borrow millions and millions of dollars from the feds to prop up its weekly unemployment checks. Now, it appears, the ESC has some major explaining to do. The State newspaper reported this week that the agency’s director, Ted Halley, has sped up his timetable on resigning his job. Big surprise. And the new interim director? A former state representative and ESC commissioner, Sam Foster of Chester.

Commentary

Ozmint needs to take medicine or hit the road

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

OCT. 16, 2009 – As head of the state Department of Corrections, Jon Ozmint’s job is to take prisoners. But that comes in sharp contrast to his arrogant, take-no-prisoners style in dealing with legislators, auditors and, well, it seems just about anybody.

Ozmint, you see, can’t take criticism, constructive or otherwise. Anytime anyone tries to say anything about how he’s running the department, he attacks like a ____ (You insert the appropriate description – pit bull, cobra, frothing spoiled schoolboy).
 
Right about now, if he’s reading this column, he’s probably wondering about my neck size (17½ ) and what I’d prefer for a last meal (it’s kind of a long list but ends with a chocolate sundae).
 
Which is silly. It’s time for Ozmint to grow up and take his legislative medicine.
 
This week, the state Legislative Audit Council released a 90-page “limited scope review” of the state Department of Corrections. Two years ago, a state Senate subcommittee investigating the department developed an initial report of findings, which was “leaked” to the press. Ozmint then barked with grandiose, charged words about how it was “reckless and false.” Cowed legislators, unhappy with the department’s forthrightness, decided to get out of the investigating business and asked the Council to look into a number of issues concerning money, lawsuits, performance, personnel and procurement. 
 
As part of the Council’s study, it sent an e-mail to Corrections employees notifying them that they might be asked to respond to a survey on whether there was a “culture of harassment, intimidation and favoritism” in Corrections employment practices. Ozmint went ballistic. He sent an email to employees that raised some objections to the survey, but concluded that if employees wanted to answer, they should do so honestly.
 
The LAC report shows the Department may be functioning pretty well, but Ozmint’s continued tirades call into question his effectiveness. He is not a dictator, but a state employee. He needs to act like one – and get along with the legislature – instead of being a jerk. Otherwise, he should go.
Such interference didn’t sit well with auditors, who essentially thought the meddling was a pressuring tactic to discourage Corrections employees from participating. In the end, they did not proceed with the survey. In other words, Ozmint’s potentially intimidating email kept auditors from probing into whether a culture of intimidation existed at the department. (Ozmint, by the way, offered an angry four-page tirade about the e-mail incident in his audit rebuttal.   In them, he eventually blamed the Council for being in the wrong.)
 
With that background, the LAC’s report was remarkably tame. It included 19 mostly tame recommendations that should have made a control freak like Ozmint happy. Auditors found few problems with hiring, favoritism or security. They suggested tweaks in calculating accountability measures, encouraged the sale of a 4,200-square-foot house on prison grounds provided to Ozmint and some changes to hiring policies. 
 
In a written response included in the report, Ozmint said the agency was in compliance or would comply with 13 of the recommendations. But what was really amazing was the venom that laced his 20 pages of comments – phrases like “false witch hunt” and “politically motivated scrutiny” and “intentionally deceptive.”
 
Several pages of the response targeted state Sen. Phil Leventis, D-S.C., such as this rant about the director’s free housing: “This topic of inquiry simply mimics the partisan rants of Senator Leventis...His hypocrisy and partisanship are clear…It’s another attempt to intimidate in his continuing campaign of retribution against the Agency Director.”
 
Leventis, who has called on Gov. Mark Sanford to fire Ozmint for a variety of reasons, responded in kind: “Mr. Ozmint fails to understand that he is the director of Corrections, not the chair of a political party. He runs his agency like a political party boss, giving favors to those on the inside of his circle but applying certain sanctions to those who do not believe as he does.”
 
In calling again for the governor to oust Ozmint, Leventis added, “Mr. Ozmint, based on his response, appears to be exactly what he is, a political operative. What South Carolina really needs is a competent and capable administrator.”
 
The LAC report shows the Department may be functioning pretty well, but Ozmint’s continued tirades call into question his effectiveness. He is not a dictator, but a state employee. He needs to act like one – and get along with the legislature – instead of being a jerk. Otherwise, he should go.

RECENT COMMENTARY

Spotlight

S.C. Hospital Association

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring SC Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the South Carolina Hospital Association, the Palmetto State's foremost advocate on healthcare issues affecting South Carolinians. The mission of SCHA is to support its members in addressing the healthcare needs of South Carolina through advocacy, education, networking and regulatory assistance.

Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The state’s hospitals and health care systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide. SCHA's credo: We are stronger together than apart. To learn more about SCHA and its mission, go to: http://www.scha.org.

My Turn

Continuing to build SC's economy

By Paula Harper Bethea  
Chair, Centers of Economic Excellence Review Board

OCT. 16, 2009 -- The official recession appears to be coming to an end. South Carolina will emerge from slowdown, but once our economy gets back to normal, should we be satisfied? In recent memory, “normal” for South Carolina has meant a per capita income 30 percent below the national average and low placement on a wide variety of economic and standard-of-living rankings.
 
I am not satisfied—and you shouldn’t be either—until our state’s economy is transformed into one that is multi-faceted. We must build upon our manufacturing base and also work to attract technology-intensive industries. We must work to attract companies based on our high level of innovation instead of low costs and low wages—an economic strategy that worked for a long time, but now limits opportunities for our citizens.
 
The transformation has begun, and on October 30, the public will get an up-close look at the exciting South Carolina-based advanced research that is part of the state’s visionary Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) Program.
 
In 2002, the General Assembly established the CoEE Program, which creates advanced research centers at the state’s three research universities (Clemson, USC, and MUSC). The program also recruits some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers to South Carolina as CoEE endowed chairs to lead these research centers.
 
So far, 43 centers have been created in fields such as regenerative medicine, automotive engineering, and nanotechnology—new discoveries in these knowledge-intensive fields could lead to commercial applications that, if successful, could attract huge amounts of investment and create thousands of high-paying jobs in the state.
 
The program is sustained by lottery funds appropriated by the General Assembly, and all state funding must be matched dollar-for-dollar with non-state money from private companies, foundations or federal grants.
 
To date, the CoEE Program has brought more than a quarter billion dollars of outside investment into the state and created more than 2,000 new jobs in South Carolina.
 
In addition, 22 endowed chairs have been recruited to the state. These men and women come from places like MIT and NASA and have chosen to move their groundbreaking work to South Carolina because of the state’s investment in research and innovation through the CoEE Program.
 
In late October, the 22 CoEE endowed chairs will come together for the very first time in a Council of Chairs. They will serve as a brain trust for the state, to help identify new ways that South Carolina can realize a science-based economy that constantly generates high-paying jobs and better opportunities for citizens.
 
The Council of Chairs and CoEE Showcase events will take place on Oct. 30. The public is invited to attend from 1 to 4 p.m. at USC’s Russell House Theater. There is no cost to attend and pre-registration is not required. For additional information, visit this Web site.
As part of the Council of Chairs conference, the public is invited to a CoEE showcase event that will bring together university and business leaders and legislators to look at ways the state can maximize the return on its investment of lottery dollars in CoEE. House Member Gilda Cobb Hunter, BMW’s Bobby Hitt, USC Provost Michael Amiridis, Clemson VP for Research Chris Przirembel, and others will take part in a panel discussion about the CoEE Program’s effect on research, education, and economic development across South Carolina. CoEE endowed chairs will also discuss their research and its potential to strengthen South Carolina’s economy, improve quality of life, and create high-paying jobs.
 
For business leaders who want to learn more about how companies can partner with the state’s research universities, for elected officials who want to learn more about CoEE’s return on investment, or for individuals interested in improving South Carolina for all of its citizens, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

Bethea chairs the SC Centers of Economic Excellence Review Board.  She also serves as executive director of the S.C. Education Lottery. 

RECENT MY TURNS

Feedback

Ban wage discrimination

To SC Statehouse Report:


A solution not mentioned in the article is for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, to ensure that wage discrimination is banned and then to enforce it. Or for the state legislature to pass and then enforce similar legislation.

-- Mary Mosley, legislative director, Missouri Women's Network, St. Louis, MO

Want to send us a letter? 

Letters to the editor are published weekly. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. We generally publish all comments about South Carolina politics or policy issues, unless they are libelous or unnecessarily inflammatory. One submission is allowed per month. Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint. Comments are limited to 250 words or less.

Scorecard

Up, down and in the middle

Tourism. Amidst a national recession, tourism increase 1.7 percent in South Carolina in 2008, according to a new study.  More.
 
Graham. Lindsey, you telling yelling tea-baggers to “chill out” was simply fabulous. More.
 
USC. The university just ended a record year for donations, despite economic downturn.  More.
 
Math. State K-12 students scored at the national level in math, Yay! But it was a drop over last year, Boo! More.
 
Unemployment. Legislators and ESC officials failed to make changes needed to keep thousands of unemployed state residents receiving extended unemployment checks. More.
 
Foreclosures. Increased 11 percent across the state in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the previous three months. More.
 
Ozmint. Pipe down, director. You’re a state employee that answers to the governor and legislature. They don’t answer to you.

Stegelin

Helpful hints


Also from Stegelin:  10/9 | 10/2 | 9/25 | 9/18 | 9/11 | 9/4

credits

Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2018 , Statehouse Report LLC. Statehouse Report is published every Friday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.
Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.