State lawmakers with other government gigs: constitutional violation?

April 14, 2018

Investigative Reports

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 ariail Lawmakers Wipe Their Feet on SC Constitution

By RICK BRUNDRETT

S.C. Republican Sen. Paul Campbell received about $258,000 last year as executive director and CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

Democratic Rep. Jackie Hayes made nearly $100,000 in 2017 as Dillon High School’s longtime head football coach and athletic director for Dillon and Lake View high schools.

Republican Rep. Mike Forrester took in about $82,000 in 2017 as the vice president of economic development at Spartanburg Community College.

Democratic Sen. Mike Fanning received nearly $75,000 last year as director of a Chester-based nonprofit organization that provides education staff training in public school districts in the northern part of the state.

The four legislators are among a handful of state lawmakers who reported receiving paychecks in 2017, either as employees or contractors, from various state or local government agencies, according to their latest annual income-disclosure reports, called statements of economic interests (SEIs), filed with the State Ethics Commission.

On its face, their government jobs would seem to violate the S.C. Constitution’s ban on “dual office holding” by lawmakers. That provision prohibits lawmakers from holding any other “office or position of profit or trust” in government except as “officers in the militia, members of lawfully and regularly organized fire departments, constables, and notaries public.”

Prohibiting lawmakers from holding other government positions is intended to keep their focus on the needs of their constituents in their respective legislative districts and on the state’s priorities.

The state Supreme Court, however, whose members are elected by the Legislature, in recent years has sided with lawmakers on the definition of “dual office holding,” allowing broad exceptions to the ban.

In 2013, for example, the state’s top court ruled that current Senate president pro tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and then-Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, could continue serving on the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) board – which over the years has funneled several billion dollars to a select number of counties, mainly for large expansion projects.

The justices said Leatherman’s and Limehouse’s STIB roles were related to their legislative duties and fell within an “ex officio” exception established in earlier court rulings.

In a 2013 opinion on whether Sen. Campbell, R-Berkeley, could become the Charleston County Aviation Authority’s executive director while remaining a senator, the state Attorney General’s Office said, citing an earlier Supreme Court case, whether the director’s position is an office of “honor or profit” under the state constitution would depend on several criteria, including, for example, whether the position was created by the Legislature.

The attorney general’s opinion, which doesn’t have the force of law, said a court “would likely find” that Campbell could serve in both roles as legislator and airport director “without violating the dual office provision of the South Carolina Constitution.”

In a May 2013 story in The Nerve, Campbell said he was involved with early negotiations on legislation authorizing the sale of $120 million in state bonds, the proceeds of which would be used, in part, to buy about 320 acres of Charleston International Airport property – owned by the county aviation authority – for aerospace giant Boeing Co. Two months after publication of The Nerve’s story, the aviation authority hired Campbell as its new executive director.

On his latest SEI, filed on March 29, Campbell reported his executive director’s salary last year was $257,966. As a legislator, he currently serves as the Senate Ethics Committee chairman.

Potential conflicts of interest can occur when lawmakers have other government jobs or positions. The Nerve in 2015 reported, for example, that Rep. Forrester, R-Spartanburg, who reported $81,791 in income last year from Spartanburg Community College, proposed directing $3 million to the state Department of Employment and Workforce for “direct training.” At the time, the state agency was listed on the college’s website as one of its “collaborative partners.”

State lawmakers have a long history of exerting their legislative power in their home communities. Rep. Hayes, D-Dillon, for example, sponsored legislation for a 2010 ballot proposal asking Dillon County voters whether they wanted their county board of education popularly elected instead of being appointed by the local legislative delegation, which includes Hayes.

Yet although nearly 90 percent of the voters in that election said they wanted to end the delegation’s power, it never happened, as The Nerve reported in 2013. The delegation today still determines the makeup of the county board – the only such board in South Carolina that completely controls the membership of local school boards within its jurisdiction.

Besides reporting his $99,809 salary last year as a head football coach and athletic director, Hayes on his latest SEI, filed last month, listed his wife’s $100,767 salary in 2017 as the director of the Dillon School District 4’s Programs for Exceptional Children.

Other state lawmakers who reported 2017 income from government jobs included:

*Rep. Bill Bowers, D-Hampton, who listed $94,000 in salary from the University of South Carolina; he is listed on the USC-Beaufort’s website as a “visiting professor” of business administration. The Nerve last month reported that Bowers unsuccessfully tried to direct the state to spend $400,000 to buy land from a nonprofit land trust that he founded.

*Rep. Joe Daning, R-Berkeley, who reported $32,133 in compensation from Trident Technical College. The college’s website lists him as the director of Workforce and Military Programs.

*Sen. Fanning, D-Fairfield, who listed $74,984 from the Clover School District in York County. District spokesman Bryan Dillon told The Nerve that the amount represented salary paid to Fanning in his role as director of a nonprofit organization called the “Olde English Consortium,” which, according to website, is “dedicated to promoting efficiency and cooperation” among nine school districts in the north central part of the state and two public universities (Winthrop and University of South Carolina – Lancaster).

Federal income-tax records for the organization list the group’s mission as providing “education to school personnel for member organizations.” Dillon said the 2017 amount that Fanning reported on his SEI represented collective contributions from participating school districts, and that the Clover School District was just the “financial agent” for payments to Fanning.

*Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, who listed $53,476 in salary as an attendance supervisor with the Orangeburg Consolidated School District.

*Rep. Brandon Newton, R-Lancaster, who reported $17,206 in wages from the University of South Carolina – Lancaster. He is listed on the USC-Lancaster’s website as the alumni affairs coordinator.

*Sen. Kent Williams, D-Marion, who listed $60,636 in salary as Marion County’s deputy county administrator.

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve. Contact him at 803-254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

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