State Education Superintendent Participates in ‘Project Conflict Watch’

May 15, 2013

Investigative Reports

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Mick ZaisS.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais is the first state constitutional officer and the latest public official to participate in the South Carolina Policy Council’s “Project Conflict Watch.”

The Palmetto State repeatedly has received among the lowest rankings nationwide when it comes to government transparency. Project Conflict Watch is the Policy Council’s most recent effort to promote transparency throughout state government.

Launched on April 16, the project is an attempt to remedy South Carolina’s dubious distinction, according to a January report by the S.C. Commission on Ethics Reform, as the only state that requires public officials to disclose just their government sources of income.

The Policy Council, The Nerve’s parent organization, is requesting that public officials, starting with the 170-member General Assembly and the state’s nine constitutional officers, voluntarily disclose their private-income sources.

Not knowing public officials’ private sources of income hides potential conflicts of interests. A lawmaker, for example, might benefit financially from a particular piece of legislation, but the public would not be aware of it if he doesn’t disclose his private-income sources.

So far, with the help of grassroots activists like Robert Crandall, 26 legislators have chosen to disclose their private-income sources. Many legislators, however, have been less accessible.

S. C. Superintendent Mick Zais is the first and, as yet, the only of the state’s nine constitutional officers to disclose his or her private-income sources. The other eight public officials in that group include Gov. Nikki Haley, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, Attorney General Alan Wilson, Adjutant General Robert Livingston, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Secretary of State Mark Hammond and Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers.

The Nerve reported last week that Weathers responded to Barbara Zia, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, via e-mail that he had already reported his income on his required state income-disclosure form. And despite receiving the most citizen requests to date to participate in Project Conflict Watch, neither Haley nor her spokesperson has responded.

More information about Project Conflict Watch, including a list of lawmakers who have disclosed their private sources of income, can be found on the Policy Council’s website here.

Reach Weston at (803) 254-4411 or kelli@thenerve.org. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and on Twitter @thenervesc.