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State House

South Carolina Governor Appoints Interim Comptroller General

Constitutional crisis … averted?

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With South Carolina lawmakers unable to agree on a replacement for ousted comptroller general Richard Eckstrom, governor Henry McMaster took matters into his own hands on Friday.

McMaster appointed veteran S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA) budget analyst Brian J. Gaines to act as interim comptroller – defusing a potential crisis regarding the authority of the state to issue checks to employees and vendors.

While checks issued by the state bear the signature of the state treasurer, Curtis Loftis, they are issued “pursuant to (the) warrant of Richard Eckstrom Comptroller General.”

As I noted earlier this week, Eckstrom affixed his warrant to the last round of state paychecks (dated May 1, 2023) prior to departing from office at the end of April – but prior to McMaster tapping Gaines on Friday morning, this office was vacant. That meant there was no warrant – no constitutional authority to issue any checks.

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According to McMaster, Gaines “will serve until the General Assembly elects someone to complete the remaining term of office, which is over three years.”

Will they do that? As of this writing, the two chambers appear miles apart on a permanent replacement for Eckstrom – who had held the office since January 2001.

Eckstrom was elected in November 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.

Lawmakers – led by Grooms and powerful S.C. Senate finance committee chairman Harvey Peeler – pushed Eckstrom out of office after he acknowledged a $3.5 billion “anomaly” in the state’s general fund budget.

Eckstrom first reported the anomaly in early February – prompting a legislative investigation.

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Former state representative Kirkman Finlay (Travis Bell)

House members scheduled a legislative election for last week – May 3, 2023 – which intended to elect former state representative Kirkman Finlay III to this post. That election never took place, however, because state senators led by Larry Grooms refused to respond to the House.

Grooms has reportedly been pushing career bureaucrat Mike Shealy as the next comptroller. Shealy was a twenty-year lieutenant of über-liberal Senate leader Hugh Leatherman, who passed away in November of 2021. 

As for Gaines, he made it clear on Friday that he views himself as a placeholder.

“I see my role as carrying out the duties of the office of the comptroller general, and those duties will be carried out for as long as I’m in this role and until such a time as the General Assembly decides to elect someone else,” he said upon being sworn in by S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty.

In addition to failing to elect a new comptroller, lawmakers formally concluded their 2023 legislative session at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday without having passed a budget – or making significant progress on a host of their “conservative” agenda items. Accordingly, McMaster announced he would call them back into session on Tuesday May 16, 2023 to finish their legislative business for the year.

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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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2 comments

TBA May 12, 2023 at 2:27 pm

Brian Gaines is lazy, inept and supports the establishment at every opportunity. He votes Democrat, and has an “interesting” private life.
In other words, he is the perfect Represenative of the Establishment Loving, Corporate Run Republican Party.

Reply
Steve May 12, 2023 at 6:05 pm

Brian Gaines is incompetent.

Reply

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