S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has consistently denied pressuring the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to approve a controversial dredging permit that will benefit the Port of Savannah at the expense of the Port of Charleston.
Haley “trusts that the board’s decision is in the best interest of South Carolina,” spokesman Rob Godfrey told The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, echoing statements made by the administration in the days leading up to the widely-criticized vote.
Given the allegations of financial and political favoritism showed to Haley by moneyed Georgia interests – as well as Haley’s recent takeover of the SCDHEC board – the notion that Haley didn’t pressure her appointees to reverse the agency’s position on this matter strains credulity.
And let’s face it, Haley hasn’t exactly been a model of truthfulness since taking office, eroding her credibility with lie after lie after lie (after lie after lie after lie after lie after lie after lie).
So … is this the latest Haley deception?
Sources tell FITS that Katherine Veldran, the governor’s legislative liaison, confirmed Haley’s involvement in the SCDHEC decision during a heated exchange with a state lawmaker in a downtown Columbia, S.C. watering hole early Sunday morning.
Challenged by the lawmaker to justify the agency’s action, Veldran not only acknowledged that the governor’s office had a role in the decision- she implied that the decision was actually made by the Haley administration, not the SCDHEC board.
“That’s the best decision we have made since we’ve been in office,” Veldran allegedly told the lawmaker.
A State House lobbyist who witnessed the exchange independently confirmed Veldran’s quote – verbatim.
Well, well, well …
Efforts to reach Veldran were unsuccessful. As is its custom, Haley’s office declined to respond to our request for comment.
Shortly after the vote, FITS asked SCDHEC spokesman Adam Myrick point blank whether the governor’s office had intervened in the board’s decision-making process.
He never answered the question.
“At any time did the governor, one of her appointees or a member of her administration apply pressure on DHEC either to revisit or approve these permits?” we asked a second time, just to make sure we hadn’t stuttered.
Once again, Myrick failed to answer the question.
Meanwhile, one of our sources at SCDHEC alleges that the agency gave the Georgia ports case to a newly-hired attorney – despite this lawyer’s inexperience and the fact that the case was not his “normally assigned client area.”
“When the board decided to hear the matter, it was assigned to a brand new DHEC attorney,” our source explains. “There are a couple other attorneys who normally would’ve handled this type of case. But for whatever reason, it was assigned to the new guy, who I don’t believe had much background knowledge about it leading up to the Board meeting.”
Another source at the agency tells FITS that the governor’s office directed the staffing of the case to ensure that the agency’s Sept. 30 decision was reversed prior to the board taking a vote.
“Her board couldn’t just approve the permits,” the source says. “First they needed cover from the staff.”
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called for an investigation into Haley’s involvement in this case – and outrage over her betrayal of the state of South Carolina’s economic and environmental interests is intensifying.
“Governor Haley and her team have launched a direct assault on the Port of Charleston, the jobs it creates, and the families those jobs support,” S.C. Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) said.
Meanwhile, S.C. Rep. Kevin Ryan (R-Georgetown) said that Haley “needs to be reminded that her job is to protect the interests of South Carolinians.”
UPDATE: A third source is now verifying Veldran’s quote – and identifying the lawmaker involved in the discussion as S.C. Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Winnsboro).