Security Detail Costs for Governor, Lt. Governor, Kept Secret

October 30, 2013

Investigative Reports

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Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnellOn July 18, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell traveled to Sullivan’s Island to speak at an event commemorating the 150thanniversary of the Battle of Battery Wagner, according to a copy of his work schedule provided by his office.

On Sept. 5, the 65-year-old Charleston Republican attended the Family Fun Festival in Florence. And as recently as last Wednesday, he was at a “striped bass meeting” in Cross, records show.

At those events and some 60 others – mostly speaking engagements – that McConnell attended since the end of the legislative session in June, the part-time lieutenant governor was entitled to be protected by as many as four full-time agents with the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – South Carolina’s top investigative law enforcement agency.

But neither SLED officials nor McConnell’s office will tellThe Nerve how often his security detail is used or the total taxpayer cost.

McConnell didn’t return three phone messages this week from The Nerve seeking comment. His annual salary as lieutenant governor is $46,545; he received a pro-rated salary of $35,520 last year, plus $48,515 in a state legislative pension and $3,994 in Senate income, according to his income-disclosure form filed with the State Ethics Commission.

When McConnell, the former longtime Senate president pro tempore and former chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, became the lieutenant governor in March 2012 following the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, he made sure he had a contingent of taxpayer-funded body guards.

SLED Chief Mark Keel told The Nerve last year that McConnell’s office informed his office that a security-detail appropriation “had been requested.”

Contacted last week by The Nerve, SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson confirmed that $180,000 in general funds was appropriated in the agency’s budget for this fiscal year, which started July 1, for the salaries of the four agents designated for McConnell’s security detail. But she declined to discuss specifics of how those agents are used.

The Nerve this week asked SLED spokesman Thom Berry for specifics on the total costs of McConnell’s and Gov. Nikki Haley’s security details last fiscal year and so far this fiscal year, but no information was provided by publication of this story.

No online state budget documents for the Governor’s Office, Lieutenant Governor’s Office or SLED list specific expenditure line items for this fiscal year for either the governor’s or lieutenant governor’s security detail. The Nerve last year reported that the Senate version of the 2012-13 state budget had earmarked $441,958 in SLED’s budget for a four-member security detail for McConnell.

The $180,000 for the salaries of the four SLED agents designated for McConnell’s detail is cryptically listed in SLED’s current budget as “Law Enforce Officer II” under a section titled, “Regulatory.”

The size of Haley’s security detail is unknown; SLED officials have repeatedly declined to discuss that, citing security concerns. A state budget proviso (117.76), which has to be renewed annually, says SLED and the state departments of Public Safety and Natural Resources “shall provide a security detail to the Governor in a manner agreed to” by the law enforcement agencies and the Governor’s Office. It also says that security-detail costs “shall be made in an amount agreed to” by the parties from “funds appropriated to the Office of the Governor for this purpose.”

The Nerve this week also asked Berry if McConnell’s campaign and SLED had any written agreement about the reimbursement to SLED of security detail costs during campaign events for McConnell, but there were no immediate answers to that question.

In a story Monday, The Nerve reported that taxpayers would be on the hook for paying for the regular salary of Haley’s security detail, which is under SLED’s direction, during campaign events, based on The Nerve’s review of a written agreement this month between her office, SLED and the State Ethics Commission. The agreement appears to contradict a state law (Section 8-13-765 of the S.C. Code of Laws) that says, “No person may use government personnel, equipment, materials, or an office building in an election campaign.”

McConnell hasn’t officially declared his candidacy for lieutenant governor, though he plans to do so “at the beginning of the year,” according to Jon Parker, who works for the political consulting firm Richard Quinn & Associates, which Parker noted is “helping out” McConnell.

Contacted by The Nerve on Tuesday, Parker said McConnell hasn’t participated in any formal campaign events yet, adding, “He is focused on the duties of the lieutenant governor.”

Online campaign-finance records with the State Ethics Commission show that McConnell transferred nearly $255,000 in campaign contributions in August and last month from his Senate campaign account to his lieutenant governor’s campaign account.

Asked last week by The Nerve about specifics of McConnell’s security detail, Tony Kester, who oversees the Office on Aging in the Lt. Governor’s Office, replied: “I can’t answer that. I’m not with him continuously.”

In a written response Friday to The Nerve, Debbie Hammond, McConnell’s chief of staff, replied, “Any information about security needs to be directed to SLED.”

Upon request, Hammond on Tuesday provided The Nerve with McConnell’s work schedule since the end of the legislative session in June. As lieutenant governor, McConnell is the Senate president, presiding over the 46-member chamber while it is in session.

Since the end of session, he has been to his first-floor State House office 10 times in the 44 business days that he’s worked, according to his work schedule.

The State House is protected by the Bureau of Protective Services, which is part of the S.C. Department of Public Safety.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.