State House

Senators Seek Audit Of South Carolina Aeronautics Commission

Agency accused of “attacking” elected officials, engaging in improper political activities …

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Five South Carolina senators – including powerful S.C. Senate finance committee chairman Harvey Peeler – want state auditors to look into the Palmetto State’s politically appointed aeronautics agency.

According to a letter obtained by this media outlet, Peeler joined senators Brian Adams, Michael Johnson and Rex Rice on a letter sent to the S.C. Legislative Audit Council (SCLAC) by state senator Josh Kimbrell.

Kimbrell wants auditors to dig into the S.C. Aeronautics Commission, the West Columbia, S.C.-based agency which manages the Palmetto State’s two propeller planes and purports to foster “economic development by overseeing the safety and development of the state’s public use airports,” among other tasks.

According to the audit request, in addition to “generally” reviewing the commission these five senators want to know “whether political activity was improperly conducted” during any board meetings between 2020 and 2024. Specifically, the request seeks to uncover “whether there were any discussions about electoral challenges to members of the General Assembly.”

Additionally, the audit request is seeking a review of the commission’s “use of private legal counsel and payments to outside legal counsel,” as well as a review of its “airport grants, aircraft maintenance, and payments to employees, vendors, contractors and the like.”

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Finally, the request hints at potential restructuring – or even privatization – of the agency in the future, asking for “a description of how other states structure their versions of the (commission)” and a discussion of whether these alternative structures, if implemented in South Carolina, “would increase efficiencies and accountability.”

“I am tired of obscure boards and commissions in South Carolina operating in the shadows, often using state resources and taxpayer funds to advance their own fiefdom and attacking anyone – including officials elected by the people – to protect their own agency priorities at the expense of the public interest,” Kimbrell said. “This is a necessary step toward accountability and transparency.”

We reached out to the aeronautics commission’s executive director but did not immediately receive a reply. In the event we do, we will share it with our audience – and obviously our open microphone is always available to anyone, on any topic.

South Carolina elected officials – including former governors Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley – have habitually abused their access to taxpayer-funded air travel. In fact Haley, who is currently running for the presidency, had to reimburse taxpayers $10,000 for ethics violations associated with her misuse of state airplanes.

This media outlet has long argued that taxpayer-funded travel for elected officials should be limited to “advancing core functions of government.”

“If you presume (as we do) that government shouldn’t engage in crony capitalist, tax-shifting ‘economic development’ efforts – then virtually none of these flights are appropriate,” I noted in an editorial more than a decade ago.

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THE LETTER …

(S.C. Senate)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.

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1 comment

CongareeCatfish Top fan February 1, 2024 at 11:59 am

Something like this should have happened in SC Housing in the 2018-2022 timeframe, and the last 10 years of SC Dept. of Education, DHHS, and SC Dept. of Employment and Workforce, for starters. Oh, and the major universities – they are probably the worst offenders- but that will never happen.

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