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SCDJJ: New Scandals, No Accountability

Another of Henry McMaster’s cabinet agencies is in trouble …

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After a year-and-a-half in office, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster cannot blame the widespread dysfunction in his cabinet on his predecessor, Nikki Haley.

Sure, Haley did a demonstrably terrible job of running the Palmetto State’s cabinet agencies … but McMaster has done absolutely nothing to fix them.  In fact things are arguably worse than ever at the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) – one of the governor’s agencies that actually performs (or is supposed to perform) a core function of government.

Last week, we exclusively reported on fresh outbreaks of violence at SCDJJ’s Broad River Road campus just north of Columbia, S.C.

“Reports were of chaos like 2016,” one of our sources noted.

That’s a reference to violence exclusively uncovered by this news site back in March of 2016.  Our coverage led to a scathing report from the S.C. Legislative Audit Council (SCLAC) and the eventual resignation of former SCDJJ director Sylvia Murray.

We argued recently that nothing had changed at SCDJJ under McMaster’s hand-picked director, Freddy Pough, and apparently we were right.

The violence last Friday has produced some interesting responses, though.  And non-responses.

First, SCDJJ has reportedly failed to produce incident reports related to the violence – a lack of transparency agency insiders tell us was deliberate.

“The director is hiding the Friday fights,” one source familiar with the situation told us, referring to the incidents as having been “buried.”

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Meanwhile, sources close to the governor’s office tell us McMaster chief of staff Trey Walker is livid over news of the violence leaking out – leery of any negative media attention within the cabinet so close to McMaster’s reelection bid.

“The governor’s office is pissed about the story Friday and (the) director is looking for a head on a platter,” one agency insider told us.

In other words, rather than trying to get a handle on what precipitated the violence it seems McMaster’s administration is more concerned with sweeping it under the rug and trying to find/ plug the leak.

Gotta love that “accountability,” right?

Money should not be an issue at SCDJJ.  The agency is slated to receive $134.6 million in the latest version of the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget – an increase of 2.9 percent from the previous fiscal year.   Over the previous four years, the agency has seen a 12.2 percent increase in appropriations.

Of course this is South Carolina, where state government’s motto may as well be “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”

Speaking of “Mo Problems,” Walker may soon be chasing down another scandal at the agency.

According to our sources, an internal investigation is currently underway at SCDJJ after the parent of a juvenile alleged that their child was “propositioned for sex in exchange for money” by a correctional staffer.

Uh-oh …

The parent is reportedly in the process of filing complaints with other state agencies, and is considering taking their story to the mainstream media.

Stay tuned … we hope to have updated information on this latest SCDJJ drama soon.

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