The bank – which we oppose – uses taxpayer funds to purchase privately owned land for conservation purposes. While we support conservation efforts, we do not believe the bank performs a core function of government – and we have repeatedly expressed concerns over its mismanagement in recent years.
Lawmakers agreed with us, and dramatically slashed its funding in response to these concerns.
Pitts resigned from the S.C. House of Representatives for the expressed purpose of taking this six-figure position (and rehabilitating the bank’s relationships with lawmakers). Unfortunately for the 63-year-old Greenwood, S.C. native, his bid ran into trouble almost immediately – and last week became fully engulfed in controversy.
Senators – led by Dick Harpootlian of Columbia, S.C. – were upset that Pitts voted against a proposal that would have required lawmakers looking to lead the agency to wait a year before taking the six-figure job (thereby paving the way for his own ascension to the post).
Harpootlian accused Pitts of “feathering his own nest.”
On Monday morning, Pitts decided enough was enough and withdrew his nomination – citing health concerns.
“It is painfully clear that my health is being negatively affected and the stress of the confirmation process will not subside,” he wrote in a letter to the bank’s chairman, Doug Harper. “I also believe that continuing pursuit of my confirmation with the divisive bitterness it has caused may damage the future of this vital state agency and I sincerely do not want that. My will to fight is strong but my ability is not.”
To read a copy of Pitts letter in its entirety, click here.
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As we noted in our coverage, this news outlet has always liked Pitts. And we believe he would have performed capably in this position.
“He has always struck us as a reasonable guy – even on issues where we disagree with him – and we appreciate that he is one of the few state lawmakers who has been consistently willing to accept our ‘open mic’ invitation,” we noted at the outset of this controversy.
But we have also always been adamant that the only way to eliminate the perception of impropriety and self-dealing in public service is to actually eliminate impropriety and self-dealing in public service.
As part of our ongoing efforts to crack down on pay-to-play politics in the Palmetto State, we have proposed a permanent ban on current and former lawmakers – and members of their family or their co-workers – from receiving any appointed government post.
In other words, those elected to the S.C. General Assembly – and members of their family or their co-workers – would permanently forego any future, paid employment with the state unless the voters chose them for another elected office.
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