South Carolina’s first inspector general resigned from his post over a month ago – an announcement that the “transparent” administration of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley never made public.
George Schroeder, who was appointed to the $110,000 a year post to root out fraud, waste and inefficiency in government, was on the job for just six weeks when he stepped down from his post at the end of April.
Schroeder’s resignation was belatedly confirmed by Associated Press reporter Jim Davenport in a news brief on Tuesday. In that brief, Schroeder said he believed a state law was necessary in order for him to fulfill the responsibilities of the office effectively. He also said that the inspector general’s office needed to be independent of the governor and the legislative branch – prompting some to question what he may have discovered during his short tenure.
Haley created this office in March via an executive order, a largely symbolic move given its narrow scope and lack of prosecutorial authority and subpoena power. Schroeder was only supposed to be on the job for a year – which makes his sudden departure even more surprising.
We wrote almost a year ago about the importance of establishing – and empowering – this office as a part of permanent law.
“This is one of the rare government bureaucracies we support, because it exists for the sole purpose of eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in other agencies,” we wrote last summer. “Certainly, the bigger problem is unnecessary government, but in a notoriously-corrupt state like South Carolina it is our believe that an OIG would be worth every penny of taxpayer money we invest.”
In fact, the creation of this office was one of ninety-five reforms that we proposed three years ago in a document that still serves as the reform movement’s primary blueprint – as well as compelling reminder of this state’s unfinished business.
From our founding editor’s “95 Theses” (verse 13):
13) The Office of State Inspector General is hereby established to identify waste, fraud and abuse across all branches of government, and to refer violations to the Attorney General for prosecution. The Inspector General shall be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Legislators from both parties, led by Senators Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw), have been pushing for the creation of an inspector general’s office for years.
In fact, their bill establishing the office unanimously passed the S.C. Senate in early April. Unfortunately, this legislation has yet to receive a hearing in the S.C. House of Representatives.
Sources tell FITS that Schroeder was pushing “actively, daily” to get the law passed, but received “no help” from Haley or her staff. In fact, in addition to excluding the inspector general’s office from her less than ambitious legislative report cards, several House members tell FITS that Haley was actually working to block the legislation.
“She already declared victory and took all the credit,” one House Republican told us. “She didn’t want Vincent (Sheheen) and (Tom) Davis to come along and steal her thunder.”
Advocates for the inspector general’s office – who were praising Haley for her boldness earlier this year – are singing a different tune now.
“If Haley can call a press conference in her tight dress and get newsprint and praise for creating the OIG, will she now have the nerve to (hold) a press conference to explain just what the hell happened to her right-hand man?” one Lowcountry advocate for the office told FITS.
That’s a good question – although Haley’s office (surprise, surprise) did not respond to our request for comment.
Schroeder was Director of the South Carolina General Assembly’s Legislative Audit Council for 33 years before his retirement in February 2009. During Haley’s transition he served as the chairman of her “fiscal crisis task force,” which met several times but never published a report of its findings.
Stay tuned to FITS as we continue to follow this developing story …