As we exclusively reported earlier this week, individual members of the South Carolina House of Representatives legislative oversight committee have submitted a letter to governor Henry McMaster asking him to seek the resignation of embattled S.C. Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) director Leroy Smith.
In lieu of that, these lawmakers want McMaster to remove Smith from his post.
“We respectfully request you seek the resignation of (Smith) and, failing such resignation, review the statutory provisions for removal of (Smith) from office,” the oversight members wrote in the letter.
Fourteen members of the committee signed the document, including its chairman – Weston Newton. In fact the letter appeared on Newton’s personal letterhead.
“When the climate at the Department of Public Safety is such that its mission is compromised as a consequence of the failure of leadership, change is needed,” the letter added. “We have no confidence in the Director of the Department of Public Safety and believe the citizens of our great state, and the dedicated men and women of the Highway Patrol, deserve better.”
The letter was signed by “Republicans” and Democrats, men and women, whites and blacks.
All of them want Smith to go …
Several other members of the committee who didn’t sign the letter told us they agreed Smith should resign, although they offered different reasons for wanting him gone.
Here’s the document …
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Oversight members have been conducting an ongoing investigation into SCDPS. Earlier this year one of its subcommittees – led by state representative Eddie Tallon – published a damning report detailing SCDPS mismanagement.
This report blasted the agency for soaring traffic fatalities, lax law enforcement, misappropriation of public funds and poor recruitment (and retention) of officers. Recruitment and retention issues have contributed mightily to steadily worsening shortages of S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) troopers.
Compounding the retention problem? SCDPS has spent somewhere between $9 and $21 million over the past four years (the agency apparently doesn’t know how much) in an effort to recruit and retain state troopers.
In addition to the oversight panel’s work the S.C. Office of Inspector General (SCOIG) – part of McMaster’s cabinet – has issued its own report on the agency. That inquiry found that despite spending millions of dollars, SCDPS had failed to develop an “effective recruitment and training strategy” and that its failure was “a major concern in the SCHP Division as less manpower means fewer uniformed officers to enforce traffic safety laws.”
The SCOIG report – which was published exclusively by this news site last month – also found that 58 percent of SCDPS employees who participated in a survey accompanying the investigation indicated morale at the agency was “poor.”
Despite all of this, McMaster has steadfastly refused to remove Smith from office.
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