May 28, 2022

The Nerve

Where Government Gets Exposed

Another Look at Nepotism on University Boards

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By ELISABETH PARKER

University of South Carolina

A family affair?

In South Carolina, lawmakers directly appoint members of state university boards. Lawmakers can choose a board member candidate for several different reasons – because the candidate will serve the school conscientiously, because the candidate is likely to implement certain policies at the school, or simply because he or she is a relative or a friend and sitting on the board is a nice gig.

In this latter category are spouses of current and former legislators, parents of current and former legislators, and former legislators themselves.

According to The Nerve’s review, MUSC’s board contains the most members with connections to state government. Rep. James Battle served in the House for fifteen years, from 1997-2012. William Bingham is the father of outgoing Rep. Kenny Bingham. G. Murrell Smith is the father to Rep.  Murrell Smith, and Michael Stavrinakis is the brother of Rep Leon Stavrinakis. Finally, Ragin Monteith is the wife of Richland County Councilman Damon Jeter, who also happens to be a lobbyist at the State House.

The president of the College of Charleston is Glenn McConnell, a former senator for thirty-one years and a lieutenant governor for two. McConnell was given the position after a halfhearted national search by the college, much to the chagrin of students and faculty.

Colonel Peter McCoy, Sr., of the Citadel board is the father of Rep. Peter McCoy, Jr. Karen Leatherman serves on the Francis Marion board. She is the daughter of Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chair of the powerful Finance Committee – which appropriates funds to the colleges and universities.

On the Clemson board, David Wilkins and Robert Peeler serve as trustees. These two fall into the category of old friends of current lawmakers. Wilkins was the Speaker of the House from 1994 to 2005, having served as a representative for fourteen years. Robert Peeler is a former lieutenant governor. Robert Peeler’s brother is current senator Harvey Peeler.

Bottom line: Want to be on a university board? Get a family member elected to the General Assembly.

Elisabeth Parker is a research assistant at the South Carolina Policy Council.

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