South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) director Catherine Templeton has hired three inexperienced attorneys to fill newly-created positions within the agency – leap-frogging more experienced lawyers while at the same time reportedly evading the state’s human resource requirements.
News of the controversial hires comes just two weeks after a legislative audit exposed numerous problems at the agency – including the fact that it ignores more than a quarter of its incoming licensing inquiries.
Anyway, Templeton has hired Melina Mann as her new general counsel, Austin Smith as her new “special” counsel and Holly Gillespie as her new chief of investigations. Smith makes $70,000 a year, not counting benefits. Gillespie and Mann’s salaries were not immediately available.
According to a source familiar with Templeton’s new hires, “none of these positions were publicly posted and all add payroll.”
According to a source within the agency, an opening for the general counsel’s position was briefly posted back in February – but the opening was removed as part of what was described at the time as “an organizational reorganization.” Two months later, however, Mann was hired for the post. Smith’s position was never posted publicly, we’re told, while Gillespie’s position was filled by Templeton after the previous head of investigations was demoted.
In addition to the questionable circumstances surrounding the hiring of these new attorneys, none of them have extensive trial experience. In fact Smith and Mann are barely out of law school. Nor are any of them likely to obtain such experience in their new bureaucratic roles.
LLR spokeswoman Lesia Kudelka – who is payed $68,552 annually (not counting benefits) to provide the public with information about the agency – did not respond to numerous requests for comment regarding these political hires.
Attempts to reach the attorneys directly were unsuccessful.
Also, multiple sources at LLR tell FITS that our website was blocked by the agency’s internet filter the day after we reported on the audit of the agency.
Templeton was Haley’s second cabinet selection. We’ve praised her previously for implementing some modest “savings” at the agency, although we obviously wouldn’t have shown her that sort of love had we known she was just going to funnel these “savings” into new political hires.
Frankly, LLR’s “Lawyer-gate” is the latest example of the pressing need for a “taxpayer rebate fund” that sends government savings back to the people who pay for government in the first place. Otherwise, it’s becoming painfully obvious that politicians and bureaucrats will just spend the “savings” someplace else …