South Carolina Disabilities Agency Fires Director, Probes Alleged ‘Fiscal Irregularities’

Staffers reportedly placed on leave as investigation begins …

Allegations of “fiscal irregularities” were at the heart of this week’s decision by the board of the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (SCDDSN) to dismiss its executive director, Mary Poole.

The 5-1 vote – first reported by Seanna Adcox of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier) – was spearheaded by former state senator David Thomas of Greenville, S.C.

Thomas told Adcox the board made its decision “for the good of the agency” but declined to provide a reason for Poole’s ouster from her $171,400 a year (not counting benefits) position.

Prior to assuming command of this agency in July 2019, Poole – who hails from York county – had at least a quarter century’s worth of experience working with citizens who have intellectual disabilities.

According to Adcox, the board voted on Poole’s dismissal after a lengthy closed door meeting – continuing a disturbing trend of Palmetto State officials conducting the people’s business in secret.

In addition to Poole’s ouster, sources familiar with the situation tell us at least two of her staffers have been placed on administrative leave in connection with the alleged “fiscal irregularities.”

Obviously, this news outlet is continuing to investigate in the hopes of determining precisely what sort of alleged financial irregularities may have occurred.

Regular readers will recall our founding editor Will Folks has been critical of this agency in the past.

“SCDDSN is emblematic of the Palmetto State’s unaccountable, duplicative and ineffective bureaucratic approach to public health,” Folks wrote in the fall of 2017 when the agency former director resigned amid scandal.

Responsible for serving individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, SCDDSN is supposed to coordinate care between the federal government and a sprawling network of county-level organizations.

According to reporter Tim Smith of The Greenville News, though, the agency was dealing with a host of problems including lengthy waiting lists for services, a dysfunctional payment system as well as a vendor with “a troubling record of resident deaths, staff arrests, lawsuits and allegations of abuse and neglect.”

Who is accountable for this agency? That’s a good question …

In typical South Carolina fashion, “it’s complicated.” Like the results-challenged S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), this agency is run by a board appointed by governor Henry McMaster with the advice and consent of the S.C. Senate.

Wait … why wouldn’t McMaster just appoint a leader of the agency who is directly accountable to him?

Because that would make too much sense … and would force the state’s chief executive to actually have some accountability for the performance of the agency.

For those of you keeping score at home, SCDDSN received $797.4 million in the most recent budget passed by state lawmakers – including $264.5 million from the state’s general fund budget.




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