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Hundreds of Expired Terms on State Panels Raise Concerns

More than 600 positions on state boards, commissions and advisory committees have expired – the vast majority of which are appointed by the governor – leaving many panelists to serve years longer in “holdover” status, a review by The Nerve found.

That, in turn, can lead to complacency and hurt the mission of the panels, some say.

According to The Nerve’s analysis of S.C. secretary of state records:

  • At least 628, or 26 percent, of nearly 2,400 statutorily authorized positions have expired terms, the most recent as of this month. Two members of the state Agriculture Commission, who are elected by legislative delegations, have been serving in holdover status since 1991 and 1992 – the longest period in The Nerve’s study.

 

  • The holdover rate of those in appointed positions could be higher than 26 percent when vacancies and ex-officio positions, or seats held by virtue of the person’s office, are subtracted from the total authorized positions. But the true holdover rate is unknown because no total authorized membership was listed for some panels; and more importantly, the Secretary of State’s Office said it doesn’t know whether the expired terms in its records are holdover positions or vacancies.

 

  • Of the 628 expired terms, 580, or 92 percent, are positions appointed by the governor, though many of those appointments rely on recommendations by legislative delegations or other groups. Most of those expired terms pre-date Gov. Nikki Haley.

 

  • Of 236 panels that the Secretary of State’s Office said it had information on, 133, or 56 percent, listed at least one expired term. Eight panels have at least a dozen expired terms, with two listing 17 expired terms. In some cases, it was unclear whether certain boards and commissions existed anymore because the Secretary of State's Office said it couldn't locate any information on them.

 

  • Of the 628 expired terms, 122, or 19 percent, are listed with professional and occupational licensing boards and commissions under the oversight of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Of 42 such panels listed on the department’s website, 30, or  71 percent, have at least one expired term; nine panels each have at least six expired terms, secretary of state records show, though there are some differences when compared with LLR records.

S.C Rep. Laurie Funderburk, D-Kershaw, says there are two basic problems with allowing panel members to serve past their terms: It prevents a panel from having fresh ideas; and, at the other extreme, a panel can lose its depth of experience if the entire membership is in holdover status and replaced at one time.

“If you’re going to have a well-run board, the model is you have those terms of office that are staggered,” Funderburk, an attorney, told The Nerve.

Funderburk in February introduced a bill (H. 4759) that would ban a gubernatorial appointee to the governing board, commission or a council of a state agency, college or university from serving in holdover status for more than 60 days after his term expired.

If the governor didn’t reappoint the panel member within the 60-day deadline, the position would automatically become vacant, and the vacancy would be filled “in the manner of original appointment.”

The bill, which has no co-sponsors, has been stuck in the House Judiciary Committee. Because of the two-year legislative cycle, any bills not passed this session would have to be re-introduced next year.

Funderburk told The Nerve she didn’t know how many board or commission members statewide are serving in holdover status, but has been told there are many.

“Some of it may be on purpose; some of it be may be neglect,” she said. “But either way, we have to keep the structure and integrity of the boards.”

The Nerve twice last month sent written questions to Haley’s office seeking specifics on the number of vacancies or holdover positions appointed by the governor, and what has prevented the governor from filling the hundreds of expired terms.

As has been its general practice since Haley took office in January 2011, the Governor’s Office did not respond to The Nerve’s inquiries.

Licensing Boards Affected?

Asked last week by The Nerve about vacancies and holdover positions on professional and occupational licensing boards, Lesia Kudelka, spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said in a written response, “The vacancy and holdover status of Board members do not affect the quality of the licensing process because the statutory requirements, the legal advice and our processes remain the same regardless of their status.”

But The Nerve’s review of secretary of state records found that nearly three out of four professional and occupational licensing boards under the LLR’s jurisdiction have at least one expired term. Two panels – the Board of Medical Examiners and the Board of Long-Term Health Care Administrators – each have nine expired terms, according to secretary of state records, though LLR records show two and eight expired terms on those panels, respectively.

Overall, the secretary of state records listed a total of 122 expired terms on professional and occupational licensing boards compared to 107 such terms, including 15 vacancies, cited on LLR’s website.

There were other discrepancies between the agencies’ records even when the number of expired terms matched. For example, LLR’s website lists five holdover positions and two vacancies on the nine-member Environmental Certification Board, which certifies wastewater, water distribution, water treatment and well-driller operators.

The Secretary of State’s Office also recorded seven expired terms on that panel, though it listed one vacancy compared to two on the LLR site.

Despite the large percentage of expired terms, Environmental Certification Board Chairman William Armes of Greenville, whose term expired in July 2009, told The Nerve last week in a written response that he didn’t believe it affected the work of his board.

“Speaking for myself, I am willing to continue to serve until a new member is appointed,” he said. “The current ECB is composed of dedicated members who work well together to carry out the mission of the ECB regardless of the expired terms.”

Not Fulfilling the Mission

But Nancy Freeman, chairwoman of the 17-member State Advisory Committee on the Regulation of Child Day Care Facilities, said the fact that 15 of its 17 seats are held by members in holdover status has created some problems in terms of commitment to the group. The other two seats are vacant, records show.

“We’ve had tremendous difficulty achieving a quorum,” Freeman, an appointee of former Gov. Jim Hodges whose committee term expired in 2003, told The Nerve last week, recalling that the last regular committee meeting was held in September. “Our committee has been neglected.”

Freeman’s committee tied with the Advisory Council for the Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center as having the most expired terms, secretary of state records show.

Freeman, an associate professor of early childhood education at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, said the mission of her committee is to “put forth regulations to ensure the basic health and safety of children,” noting that state regulations in that area are supposed to be reviewed every three years.

“We’re not meeting the mandate of child care services, and that's what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org.

Legislation State Agencies

Rep. Laurie Funderburk Licensing and Regulation S.C. Secretary of State's Office S.C. Department of Labor