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SC Work Force Agency: More Struggles

Henry McMaster has chosen his next director … but there’s a problem.

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To say there has been a vacuum of leadership at the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) is an understatement.

It has been three-and-a-half months since the agency’s former director Cheryl Stanton finally stepped down – a move that came nearly a year-and-a-half after her departure was first announced.

Seriously … no one in the governor’s office (which oversees SCDEW) saw this coming?

Apparently not. According to our sources, SCDEW is no closer today than it was two years ago to finding a replacement for the scandal-scarred leader – who was denied a job in the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump after it was reported that she stiffed her housecleaners.

Oops …

Of course this agency was an uncontrollable dumpster fire during the administration of former governor Nikki Haley, so perhaps the whole “leadership vacuum” thing is not such a bad thing after all.

Anyway …

According to our sources, governor Henry McMaster has a candidate in mind to replace Stanton, but there is a problem. Acting director Jamie Suber has reportedly withdrawn his name from consideration for the position – as has agency attorney Derrick McFarland – leaving only two candidates in the running for the job.

Shouldn’t that narrow the field and allow McMaster to select the nominee he wants?

Yes, but …

According to S.C. Code of Laws § 41-27-720, McMaster needs three candidates in the mix for his appointment to be legitimate – a holdover requirement from when lawmakers ceded control of this agency to the governor’s cabinet nearly a decade ago.

State senator Thomas Alexander – a fiscal liberal from Walhalla, S.C. – has sponsored legislation aimed at scrapping this requirement so McMaster can make his pick. His bill (S. 540) unanimously passed the Senate last week and is currently pending before the House labor, commerce and industry committee.

Alexander is a terrible vote on fiscal issues, but we have no issue with his bill. And McMaster is a terrible governor on multiple fronts (especially his latest budget), but we have no issue with allowing him to fill this position.

After all, whether we approve of his policies or not he is the governor. And this news outlet has long argued that governors in South Carolina should be entrusted with expanded authority (hoping one will eventually come along who is willing to use that influence on behalf of citizens and taxpayers).

Hasn’t happened yet … but Dum Spiro Spero, or something.

Either way, it is ridiculous lawmakers would seek to restrict the selection of candidates for this post – especially considering the Senate already has an advice and consent role over cabinet nominees.

To be clear: We have zero confidence in McMaster’s ability to pick a credible leader for this agency. But that is a matter for voters to decide the next time they pick a governor.

(Click to view)

(Via Travis Bell Photography)

The selection of a new SCDEW director is not a matter for lawmakers to hold over the governor’s head. Especially if the statute Alexander (above, left) is seeking to overturn is being leveraged by bureaucrats to block a legitimate appointment.

Again … it’s not like things are going to get any worse at this agency.

Stanton was hired by Haley as her second choice to run SCDEW back in May of 2013.  She replaced Abraham Turner, a retired Army general who resigned his post shortly after this news outlet exclusively reported that SCDEW had doled out $54.5 million in “improper claims” to unemployment benefit recipients.

Staton’s tenure wasn’t much better. Two years ago, we exclusively reported on major problems with a controversial multi-state benefits program – issues which have persisted.  The program – dubbed the Southeast Consortium Unemployment Insurance Benefits Initiative (SCUBI) – was allegedly “pushed to go” before it was ready.

South Carolina and North Carolina are the only two states still participating in what was originally supposed to be a four-state program. Tennessee – the original lead state in the project – pulled the plug in August 2013 while Georgia bailed last December.

So much for the promised efficiencies of scale, huh?

Oh, and we have heard the program is still having issues … in both Carolinas.

SCDEW administers the state’s unemployment insurance program – which rang up a billion-dollar deficit during the peak of the Great Recession.  It has since found its way back into the black, although it has done so on the backs of small businesses in the Palmetto State. In fact, we believe this massive small business tax hike has been one of the reasons South Carolina’s economic outcomes – and specifically its employment outcomes – continue to disappoint.

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