One of the state of South Carolina’s top economic development recruiters was fired from his job shortly before Thanksgiving on orders from Tim Pearson – chief of staff to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.
According to our sources, the employee’s firing was ordered by Pearson after confidential medical records were improperly obtained by the governor’s office and provided to the S.C. Department of Commerce.
What did those records show? According to a source familiar with the documents, they included evidence that the employee in question had previously received treatment for an addiction to an illegal drug.
Wow … is this thing turning into a page out of an Aaron Sorkin screenplay or what?
How did the governor’s office obtain these confidential records? They were reportedly provided by the Commerce staffer’s ex-wife – who is a former colleague of Swati Patel, the governor’s chief legal counselor. In fact, the woman served as a deputy legal counsel in the administration of former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford.
According to our sources, the woman provided the documents in an effort to obtain leverage over the man in a custody dispute over the couple’s child.
“She told Swati that he was a coke head and that they needed to do something about him,” our source inside the governor’s office says.
They did. In fact, Pearson specifically ordered S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt to terminate the employee while Hitt was vacationing in Jamaica – telling Hitt that he “spoke for the governor” on the matter.
FITS has submitted several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests pursuant to the allegations, although our sources say that efforts are already underway within the governor’s office to “clean up the emails” in an effort to “cover their tracks.” In fact, we’re told that the incident may have been the impetus for the Haley administration’s legally-questionable policy of destroying public records – which was first revealed on November 20.
It’s not hard to see why the governor’s office would want to keep a lid on a scandal like this.
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) expressly forbids the unauthorized receipt and transmission of confidential medical records. Not only that, the fact that these records were allegedly used to terminated an employee from a government job opens the door to serious civil liability.
In fact, we’re told that the employee in question is preparing “the mother of all wrongful termination lawsuits” against his former agency.
Not only that, given the employee’s high-profile role in the state’s economic development efforts, Haley’s office is no doubt hoping to avoid any embarrassing revelations that might have an adverse impact on its ability to lure new businesses to the state.