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SCDHEC Picked A New Leader … But Couldn’t Pay Them Enough

Candidate backed out over salary concerns …

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Earlier this week, news broke that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has been unable to find a replacement for its former director, Catherine Heigel.

Heigel (above) announced her resignation from SCDHEC in July of 2017.  Since her departure, the agency has been run by acting director David Wilson – its former legislative affairs leader.

This week, fifteen months after Heigel departed, the agency announced it was reopening its search for a new director.

Talk about government incompetence …

According to our sources, “unable to find a replacement” isn’t a completely accurate representation of the situation …

(Click to view)

(Via: SCDHEC)

SCDHEC apparently found a replacement for Heigel, the agency just couldn’t afford to pay him a competitive salary.

“They had a candidate selected and he backed out,” a source familiar with the search process told this news outlet.  “(The) salary was not enough.”

There was also reportedly some concern as to potential conflicts of interest involving the candidate, whose name was not provided to this news outlet.  According to our source, the candidate currently works for a firm “that represents clients in front of the agency.”

The main issue, however, was compensation.  According to our source, a new director is required to start at the low end of the salary range for this position – which is $163,000 annually (not counting benefits).  Eventually, the director’s salary could be raised to $213,000 per year (again, not counting benefits), although such an increase would require the approval of a legislatively controlled salary commission.

“All new hires have to start at the bottom of the band,” our source noted, adding that due to the unique structure of the salary approval process raises “can’t be guaranteed.”

This news outlet has written previously on the ridiculousness of this agency’s “leadership” structure – which consists of an eight-person board selected by the governor.  We believe SCDHEC’s board is superfluous, and that the governor should simply appoint the director … directly.

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Furthermore, we believe legislative meddling when it comes to the salaries of agency heads is inappropriate … as is legislative interference in the agency’s operations via the slew of provisos they insert in the state budget (as well as winks and nods regarding particular appropriations).

It is splintered accountability, people … and where there is splintered accountability, there is no accountability.

Despite all of these constraints, Heigel actually did well during her tenure at SCDHEC – keeping its budget growth in check and earning generally positive marks from the majority of her constituencies.  During her final budget cycle, the agency increased spending by only 1.8 percent.  Meanwhile her predecessor, former GOP gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton, actually cut SCDHEC’s budget by $68 million while improving service, expediting permit approval and increasing appeals.

In the first budget cycle following Heigel’s departure, however, SCDHEC received $644.4 million – an increase of $26.2 million (or 4.2 percent) from the previous year’s total of $618.2 million.

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