SHARE

HISTORY OF HUNLEY CORRUPTION SHOULD DISQUALIFY HIM FOR POSITION

By Jock Stender || Glenn McConnell’s history of public abuse should make any public college wary.

In 1998, then-Sen. Glenn McConnell was seeking private contributions to raise and restore the Hunley submarine. A businessman came forward volunteering to raise millions for the Hunley. Not coincidentally, I believe, McConnell helped that businessman take over the terminal at which my stevedoring and marine terminal company was operating at the recently-closed Charleston Navy Base.

McConnell spearheaded a complex and clandestine campaign to enrich this businessman and himself. When it was over, my marine terminal company (a hundred employees on payroll, all paid above-average wages) was out of business (see Carolina Marine Handling v. SCSPA et al., Federal Maritime Commission, Docket 99-16; and Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority, U.S. Supreme Court, 535 U.S. 743 (2002)) and the Hunley was in a state-funded laboratory at the Navy Base.

To orchestrate this scheme, McConnell caused the state of South Carolina to create the Hunley Commission (of which McConnell was Chairman), which in turn created a nonprofit corporation named Friends of the Hunley, Inc.

Friends received and disbursed all Hunley-related monies with no independent oversight, and appointed Hunley’s main fundraiser (a federal criminal convicted of pension fund abuse) as Hunley/Friends President. (In Sloan v. Friends of the Hunley, Opinion No. 26151, Hunley/Friends unsuccessfully claimed exemption from the state Freedom of Information Act, trying to avoid transparency and oversight over Hunley/Friends.)

McConnell demanded free materials and services for the Hunley from SCETV, The Citadel and the College of Charleston. The first two state entities capitulated to McConnell but the CofC’s President Alex Sanders refused, responding to McConnell in a letter, “Why don’t you get an appropriation from the legislature for this?”

McConnell’s corrupt and self-serving Hunley-related activities that I learned of through four lawsuits against him and Hunley/Friends include:

1. Co-mingling and joint-purchasing of inventory by Hunley/Friends’ gifts shop with CSA Galleries, Inc., McConnell’s own Confederate-memorabilia store.

2. Threatening the South Carolina State Ports Authority (denying it state funds for harbor dredging) if the SCSPA did not evict me, terminate my lease, take over my shipping terminal, and sign a long-term, rent-free lease with Hunley/Friends’ main fund raiser.

3. Demanding, in a letter on his official Senate stationary, that the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority, a state agency that owned the Navy Base, give a Navy shipping terminal to Hunley/Friends’ main fund raiser “forthwith.”

4. “Ghost-writing” letters for Hunley/Friends’ main fund raisers threatening the SCSPA to stop demanding an accounting of the “new startup public-private joint venture” shipping terminal that was owned by Hunley/Friends’ contributors. A PricewaterhouseCoopers forensic audit of the Hunley/Friends’ shipping company then determined that it had incurred almost $5 million in debt (losses), had “zero equity,” had never received any equity, and since its inception had existed on bank borrowing and trade credit.

5. Forcing Hunley/Friends to fire its “politically neutral” Charleston-based public relations company and give that PR business ($250,000 annually) to McConnell’s political ally, S.C. Rep. Richard M. “Rick” Quinn Jr. (R-Lexington), whose company was under IRS investigation for nonpayment of federal withholding taxes. McConnell actually got the Hunley/Friends President to obtain from the first PR company confidential cost and personnel data; and sent it to Quinn, who made an “unsolicited proposal” supposedly saving $5,000 in postage; and, without further bidding or disclosure, was given the PR business. The first PR company then went out of business.

6. Forcing Hunley/Friends’ main contributor to give McConnell’s chief of staff and general counsel a new, free Porsche Boxter, which he returned when The State newspaper published a front-page article about the Hunley/Friends and McConnell, and a photo of the Porsche.

7. Pressuring the SCSPA to settle its $5 million eviction / fraud lawsuit against Hunley/Friends contributors’ shipping company out-of-court, with SCSPA absorbing this loss and capitalizing it as “goodwill” — buried in the financial statement footnotes. McConnell had made aggressive, threatening statements directed to the SCSPA in the Charleston Post and Courier over this lawsuit, expressing his support for Hunley/Friends. SCSPA got the message: Do not cross Glenn McConnell.

8. Allowing Hunley/Friends money to be comingled with business and personal expenses and activities of Hunley/Friends contributors / shipping terminal owners. One Christmas party, held at a fancy Charleston restaurant, cost $54,000, and none of this money is accounted for. There is an $18,000 bill for $800 bottles of French wine given to “friends.”

9. Manipulating the Budget and Control Board, the Office of Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and the U.S. Navy Historical Center, Washington Yard, the so that no person would question or ask for an accounting of any of the millions of dollars of Hunley money sent to Friends.

10. “Strong-arming” the S.C. Ethics Commission to wrongfully and immediately issue a “clean” Advisory Letter to the SCSPA executive who left the SCSPA to almost immediately go to work for Hunley/Friends’ President’s new shipping terminal (with whom he had negotiated the shipping terminal deal), enriching the Hunley/Friends President and helping him obtain a joint Friends / shipping terminal “office” in a swanky downtown brownstone, and where McConnell campaign events were conducted. My subpoenaed Ethics Commission file on that case is under a protective order.

11. Appointing a Hunley/Friends contributor and “pro-bono attorney” who was a shipping company co-owner / vice president to the S.C. State Infrastructure Bank, to help McConnell control that entity.

I could provide many more examples of McConnell’s unethical and ruthless behavior in a position of authority, based on thousands of pages of documents. But based on the behavior described in the short and incomplete list above, I believe it would be irresponsible and terribly damaging to the College of Charleston for it to hire Glenn McConnell as its President.

H.R. Jock Stender is a resident of Charleston and a magna cum laude graduate of Duke University, and earned a Masters of Business Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He can be contacted via phone at 843-532-0908 and via email at jock.stender@gmail.com.