S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, May 15, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0515.meddling.htm


COMMENTARY
Public service has one master, not two
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

MAY 13, 2005 -- Look for fireworks in the coming week in another showdown between the Legislature and Gov. Mark Sanford.

On Tuesday morning, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee is scheduled to take up the nominations of four gubernatorial appointments to the Santee Cooper board. Later in the morning, the House likely will give final approval to a Senate bill that would curb gubernatorial oversight of the state's large public-owned utility by limiting the chief executive's ability to fire board members at will.

Essentially, it's a brouhaha that pits legislative power versus loyalty to the executive. A betting person will stick with state lawmakers.

Prior to the term of Gov. Jim Hodges, members of the Santee Cooper board generally served seven-year terms. When vacancies arose, governors filled slots with their nominees.

But Hodges started a bad precedent in which he got rid of board members - - or even whole boards in the case of the S.C. State Ports Authority Board - - and replaced them with choices more friendly to his way of political thinking.

When Sanford became governor, he continued the precedent by appointing ideologically-friendly pals to the Santee Cooper board. But some of the bond-rating agencies in New York appeared to find the practice "too political" because they thought it decreased the stability of the board, which oversees $5 billion in assets and the company that supplies power to millions of people in the state.

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So the bond agencies put Santee Cooper "on watch," which meant its bond rating could go down, and which, in turn, would make it more expensive to borrow money. The watch essentially was a red flag that conditions weren't optimal.

So what happened? Sen. Glenn McConnell, the Charleston Republican in charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to rein in gubernatorial meddling.

Essentially, the Senate bill would allow a governor to continue to recommend appointees to the board, but would take away the ability for a governor to fire members at will. The measure would, however, allow a governor to remove members for cause. In other words, if appointees were not doing their duty or were involved in malfeasance, the governor could remove a member. At the same time, the bill calls for increased qualifications of board members and allows citizens to sue to remove members who aren't performing their duties.

While all of this has been going on, some members of the Santee Cooper board (i.e., Gov. Sanford's appointees) have become increasingly activist in nature. Charges are flying that board members are micromanaging on everything from corporate contributions and power contracts to working intimately on a privatization study.

For example, published reports show the governor's office and some board members pushed for a six-figure Wall Street study to determine the utility's value and assets and to study the question of selling the utility. One board member even wrote a forward to the study that can only be characterized as a pro-privatization editorial version of the utility's history. When Santee Cooper management provides copies of the study, it includes an amazing disclaimer that says, in part, "This study was not requested or directed by Santee Cooper."

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Another view of Miss Liberty

FEEDBACK: Sanford pro and con

SCORECARD: Thumbs up and down

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When the Senate subcommittee starts the confirmation process on Tuesday, Santee Cooper Chairman Guerry Green, one of the four on the hot seat, will have a lot of questions to answer. Senators say they want to make sure board members look at the big picture and stop micromanaging.

After the House gives final perfunctory approval to the anti-meddling legislation Tuesday, it may be vetoed by the governor. But House and Senate members say they have more than enough votes to override.

Santee Cooper's struggles should serve as a reminder to members of state governing boards that public service requires them to carry out two duties. First, there's a "duty of care," which calls for board members to ensure an organization is running effectively and efficiently. (This gives an entrée for meddling.) But board service also carries a "duty of loyalty," which means members must serve the interests of the organization over interests of anyone else, such as a governor.

In Matthew 6:24, we're reminded that "No man can serve two masters." For Santee Cooper board members, that means their responsibility is to Santee Cooper, not any governor.


RECENT COMMENTARY

McLEMORE'S WORLD
5/13: Another view of Miss Liberty

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

 


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FEEDBACK
5/9: Governor doesn't care for Average Joes

To the editor:

I am a bit confused here. Governor Sanford tells us he is all about getting a great return on our investment, especially tax dollars. That he wants all South Carolinians to have a better quality of life.

Yet recently, he has publicly said he did not want to sell off Santee Cooper - provider of some of the most inexpensive electric services in the state, the region for that matter. Santee Cooper provides services to many of the State's Electric Cooperatives. But FOI records say the Governor lied! Why???

Now in his defense, Mark not being a native South Carolinian, and of course wealthy, does not have a clue about growing up in rural South Carolina. Many years ago, the only way electricity was delivered to rural, underdeveloped, and poor South Carolina was and is through the South Carolina Electrical Cooperatives. These co-ops provide a real deal for rural South Carolinians, and having experienced it first hand, I think they do a darn good job. So, why on earth would Mark lie about wanting to sell off this great deal for us poor folks. Records show he ordered and used tax dollars to by for a study to see how much he could get for it.

The bottom line is he does not care one bit about us poor, run of the mill average Joes! Just look at his legislative agenda for this year: Income Tax Cuts for the wealthy; Tax Cuts, PPIC, for wealthy parents with children in private schools; TORT Reform to protect wealthy insurance companies. The evidence is overwhelming. Mark will privatize Santee Cooper and we will see our electric rates sky rocket!!!! He would sell the State House, I honestly believe, if he could find a buyer for it! This guy is a real nut case!

-- Sandy Gibson, Lexington, SC


5/9: Disgusted with what passes as a Republican

To the editor:

As a lifelong Republican, I am disgusted with what passes as Republicans today. Mark Sanford is just such a modern-day Democrat in Republican clothing. Leadership? Where and when? He has done nothing to rein in spending and less in lowering property taxes. Now, it seems as if the Governor and the sheeple Republican legislature want to raise cigarette taxes so that the state won't have the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation.

A moron saw through the Governor's school voucher plans. The number of private schools is so small that only the elite of the elite will be able to attend. Public schools should be in the business of educating children for the future. Today, we educate the children in pop culture, social trends and political correctness. Health and science teachers should be teaching about disease and not demonstrating condoms.

Sanford and Republicans ignore the illegal immigrant problem. While Americans have to fight for worker's compensation or health care, illegal immigrants have no problem collecting what they have never paid into. South Carolinians are dying because the Governor ignores their needs, but goes out of his way to protect the rights of the criminal illegal immigrants.

His name has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008. Not hardly. Think Tom Tancredo. A man who remembers that he is an American and is actively working to protect Americans.

-- Janet Upshaw, Taylors, SC


5/9: Attack on Sanford is liberal hogwash

Editor's note: This rant is published in full and unedited -- spelling and grammar errors included.

To the editor:

I find your column (Commentary, 5/8) attacking Governor Sanford not only a poor piece of writing but a classic example of liberal hogwash. Please allow me to tell you why.You make light of the Governor's efforts to Get meaningful legislation though the Legislature but you fail to give names of those who oppose or give any factual details.

examples of you poor writing i.e., " Bedrock GOP activists seem to smell blood in the water as one remarked in print this week, " Governor Sanford is worthless." Now Andy , Who said that , if it was in print why not name the author? (Editor's note: See The State)

Another example i.e.," Several powerful interest groups are mad with the Governor and would prefer to see him not returned to office." Teachers are mad because of voucher program . Which teachers Andy , you mean all teachers are mad about a voucher program that was not approved? I find that hard to believe, we do need a voucher program however.

Again you state ," Many electrical co-op customers are mad after he stuck his nose in the affairs of Santee Cooper and its operations." Well, Andy I am a co-op customer and I am not mad but instead I am GLAD the Governor had Santee Cooper evaluated by a Wall Street Banking firm and now we have a better idea as to the worth of this State owned asset then we have had in many years.It is wise for our Governor to understand the operations and value of Santee Cooper, most everyone knows our Governor can never sell Santee Cooper ,Santee Cooper can only be sold or changed with the approval of our Legislature.

I believe you know that as well Andy but you like to upset those who do not know and possibly turn them against our Governor.

Also you state Lawyers are mad at him for tort reform efforts!! Well glory be, If Lawyers are upset over tort reform then things must be looking up for us average taxpaying citizens!, keep up your efforts on even more tort reform Governor.

I could go on and on about how you never give any facts or name any specific GOP voters who want to see Governor Sanford defeated.Instead you use names like "many"," Sumter residents"( no names, " if enough groups get mad"( groups not named)

The only one you quote who dislikes the Governor is Rep. James Smith of Columbia who you quote as saying " I think his support is a mile wide and an inch deep".Oh, yes, Rep James Smith is a Democrat!

Our Governor Sanford is doing a terrific job , he is proposing bold and progressive programs for this State. Our State needs more jobs , more Industry to locate in SC , more money to remain in the pockets of its citizens and less government.

We need to improve the educational opportunities for all of our children. Public schools can be part of this program but need not be the only avenue for reaching these young minds.

Political partisanship like that shown by Andy Brack and by many of our State Legislatures will not get the job done.

The programs put forth by our Governor are not right nor are they wrong because they come from the GOP ,instead they are good because they will improve the quality of life for every citizen in South Carolina.

Articles appearing in our news media that are void of ideas, void of any true facts , void of identifying those who supposedly are against a person or program, are really a disservice to the entire community .

I suggest "the Item " newspaper and others demand from those who write articles attacking ones positions or programs be obligated to name those who disagree and not use " Many", "others", " groups", etc as supporting evidence of the writers claims.

-- Lew Richards, Manning, SC

SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Base closure. Whew! South Carolina is sad to lose two smaller installations in Charleston, but the big bases -- Shaw, McEntire, Fort Jackson, Parris Island, Charleston AFB and Beaufort Marine Air Corps Station -- survived.

Mental health coverage. Hats off to lawmakers for joining other states to require insurance companies to pay for some mental health treatments.

Environmental grand jury. Another hats off for finally passing the measure to allow the state grand jury to probe environmental crimes. This helps protect South Carolina's special places.

Thumbs down

Kirsh, Clemmons. Thumbs down to an effort by Rep. Herb Kirsh, D-York, and Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, to privatize the SC Ports Authority. It's not smart to lose this huge state asset.

Sanford. We tried not to list the governor AGAIN on the Thumbs Down list, but then he went and started talking about how he can't see how blacks can be elected statewide. Governor, this was a blatant attempt to pass your version of restructuring, not a serious comment to really help blacks.


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