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South Carolina Lawmakers Seek To Remove Comptroller General

Richard Eckstrom’s days in office appear to be numbered …

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Thirty-seven members of the South Carolina Senate – including both Republican and Democratic leaders – have filed legislation calling for the removal of state comptroller general Richard Eckstrom from office.

That’s well above the two-thirds threshold necessary for giving Eckstrom the boot – in the increasingly likely event it comes to that.

The bill to remove Eckstrom from office for having “willfully neglected his duties” comes less than a month after powerful Senate finance committee chairman Harvey Peeler authorized an investigation into Eckstrom. As I previously reported, the veteran GOP office-holder is under fire for a $3.5 billion “anomaly” in the state’s general fund budget – which he first reported early last month.

According to Eckstrom, this “anomaly” was uncovered when his office began “dissecting information that hit the (state’s) accounting system” prior to the submission of a recent annual report.

“We discovered there were some differences in the way the state was accounting for cash that was transferred over to colleges and universities,” Eckstrom told a Senate panel in early February, noting these institutions were “the recipients of a huge amount of Covid money.”

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“When transfers were made to the colleges and universities, the state should have recorded a reduction in its cash – and in the accounting system it did,” he said. “But when this was mapped, that reduction never got mapped. As a result, we have this $3.5 billion restatement that we made during 2022 – which is a huge number.”

Indeed, but as S.C. treasurer Curtis Loftis told me at the time, the “Eckstrom anomaly” was a “reporting issue, not a cash issue.”

“We balance the budget to the penny every day subject to third party audits,” Loftis told me. “The amount of cash we have is not affected by the reporting of the comptroller general’s office.”

Nonetheless, lawmakers are livid because Eckstrom’s error could deprive them of surplus money they are seeking to spend on bigger government. Not only that, several members of the legislature have suggested Eckstrom may have perjured himself in attempting to explain this “anomaly.” As a result, they have demanded his resignation – which Eckstrom has refused to provide.

The bill to remove Eckstrom – S. 645 – was introduced on Thursday (March 16, 2023). It was referred to Peeler’s finance committee, which is expected to advance it to the floor of the Senate in short order. Assuming the bill clears the House, governor Henry McMaster must then decide whether or not to sign it.

If he does sign it (or allows it to become law without his signature), Eckstrom would face a hearing before lawmakers followed by a decisive vote in each chamber.

(Click to View)

S.C. comptroller Richard Eckstrom shakes hands with lieutenant governor Pamela Evette on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)

Article XV, Section 3 of the S.C. Constitution holds that “for any willful neglect of duty, or other reasonable cause, which shall not be sufficient ground of impeachment,” the governor “shall remove any executive or judicial officer on the address of two thirds of each house of the General Assembly.”

Prior to holding a legislative vote to remove Eckstrom as comptroller, McMaster would first need to notify him of the allegations against him – and permit him and/or his legal representative to participate in “a hearing in his own defense.”

If two-thirds of lawmakers voted to oust Eckstrom after that hearing, McMaster would be constitutionally obligated to remove him from office.

What are the allegations against Eckstrom? According to the bill, “from 2012 to 2017 and 2019 to 2022, (Eckstrom) certified annual comprehensive financial reports that misstated the amount of cash in the state’s general fund.”

“The revelations of these misstatements could negatively impact the State’s credit rating,” lawmakers claimed.

Eckstrom is further accused of “failing to maintain internal controls” within his office and failing to address “the existence of material weaknesses and significant deficiencies” in his accounting processes.

Eckstrom also failed “to retain necessary staff to carry out the statutory duties of his office” and has furthermore “provided answers to lawmakers that were evasive and not forthcoming.”

Eckstrom, 74, was elected in 2022 to a sixth term as comptroller. He ran unopposed in both the primary and general election cycles. In addition to his twenty years as comptroller, Eckstrom served a single four-year term as state treasurer from 1995-1999.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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7 comments

Stephen Guilfoyle Top fan March 16, 2023 at 8:55 pm

What I find fascinating about all this is that he blames COVID money to the universities but the errant statements go back to 2015-2017 and include statements of 2019.
I find both math and the calendar difficult, but doesn’t this mean the misstatements came before COVID money.
Have I got that right?

Reply
Going Broke March 17, 2023 at 9:19 am

I mean, we have Republicans blaming bank failures on banks “going woke” now so the lies have gotten extremely low effort as of late. Ickstrom should just say a drag queen handled the statements and call it a day.

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CongareeCatfish Top fan March 17, 2023 at 11:25 am

If Article XV Section 3 removal, which (a) does not explicitly reference usage against statewide elected officials, and (b) does not require a trial as in a Section 1 impeachment, and (c) has an arguably lower threshold/ standard of malfeasance required to utilize, applies to statewide elected officials, then WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER utilize Article XV, Section 1 impeachment, which IS explicitly stated for use on a statewide elected official? In other words, if Section 3 removal is an option for a statewide official’s removal, then Section 1 will never be used. Which is why the drafters likely never intended Section 3 for use against an elected statewide official. But at the end of the day, there is no appellate law on this in our State, so its concededly a “fair game” argument to make for or against. There’s an interesting brief out on the internet by Gov. Sanford’s legal team when during hearings on the “Appalachian Trail/Argentinian Tail” episode worth a read on this.

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dwb619 Top fan March 17, 2023 at 7:04 pm

What happened to that wild eyed school principal girl friend of his?

Reply
Astonished Top fan March 17, 2023 at 7:41 pm

Best way to get rid of him. South Carolina voters certainly wouldn’t….pervert!!

Reply
Tom Jones March 18, 2023 at 8:24 am

Most folks in SC don’t even know who the CG is or what he/she does. Most SC voters walk into the polling booth and pull a straight R ticket and leave not knowing who they voted for. Ol Henry’s idea of “let the voters decide” is absurd. Can we expect the same people who voted for a lying, treasonous, narcissistic nut job for POTUS (and will do it again) to kick Richard out of office? If the GA doesn’t kick him out, he’ll run again in three years and win. It’s just how we roll heah in Sooouth Carolina.

Reply
Anonymous March 19, 2023 at 10:00 pm

Oust him.

Reply

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