March 31, 2015

House votes to fire SC State trustees

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (File)

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (SCETV)

In what is likely a preview of upcoming legislation next week, the South Carolina House voted Tuesday to replace the board of trustees at financially struggling South Carolina State University.

The budget amendment approved in a unanimous voice vote Tuesday would only last for a year and would not take effect until July. So it is likely that lawmakers will hold a similar vote on stand-alone legislation next week. The amendment would replace the Board of Trustees with a five-member panel appointed by the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (previously known as the Budget and Control Board).

“This amendment creates an opportunity for stability at South Carolina State University,” State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said on the House floor during Tuesday’s debate. Cobb-Hunter expressed frustration that the House had tried restructuring the board three years ago, but were stymied by SC State alumni in the Senate.

But the House’s only SC State alum State Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, insisted that alumni had been sounding the alarm about problems at the state’s only public historically-black college for years. Govan said the legislature shared in the blame for problems at the school. “We needed to address some issues… address some Board of Trustees members who weren’t doing the right thing, who weren’t competent,” Govan said. “But this body continued to send them over and over again.”

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House budget chief: Hold steady with SC State University funding for now

House Ways & Means Chairman Brian White (File)

House Ways & Means Chairman Brian White (File)

South Carolina State University is expected to be a hot issue as the state House of Representatives debates a proposed budget this week.

Even though debate is expected, House budget chief Brian White is urging lawmakers not to cut or add to the school’s budget until an audit into SC State’s finances is complete.

“Let’s get some of those things back and see what we’re doing before we start shutting down programs,” the Ways and Means Committee chairman said on the House floor Wednesday. “And I know there’s amendments coming up to add dollars to (SC) State. And I may not be encouraged to do that, either.”

“Proceed with caution on SC State,” he told representatives, noting the school is currently on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. “It probably wouldn’t look too good in the press if we’re up here fighting whether we’re going to give money or take away money. It creates a lot of uncertainty.”

White made the remarks after an amendment was floated by some House Republicans that would have cut $3.4 million from SC State’s 1890 Public Service Activities (PSA) agricultural research program. The program is predominantly funded by federal dollars and is offered to land-grant universities. for research and outreach, although it is technically considered to exist separately from the school. Clemson also has a PSA program.

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House, Senate taking different approaches to SC State bills

SC House of Representatives (FILE)

SC House of Representatives (FILE)

South Carolina House lawmakers on Thursday fast-tracked a bill that would replace the SC State University board of trustees.

The unanimous vote to withdraw the measure from the Ways & Means Committee came the same day that senators sent over a similar version of the bill. However, a divide does exist between House and Senate about who should choose the new five-member temporary replacement board. House budget writers want the panel to be chosen by the state financial officials, while the Senate wants it to be legislators who make the choices.

But lawmakers are confident the differences can be addressed quickly.

State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, has taken the lead on pushing for the House plan, which would have the Budget and Control Board (consisting of the governor, state treasurer, comptroller general, and the House and Senate budget chairmen) choose the new board.

“They sign contracts for the state,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s time to stop setting up these silly little blue-ribbon committees and start getting at the people who can take action and fix the problem.” He noted the Budget and Control Board was well positioned to hit the ground running, as they are already up to date with the school’s financial situation and approved a $6 million loan for the college last year.

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Judge orders SC State board not to fire suspended president

S.C. State University president Thomas Elzey (Image: The Citadel)

S.C. State University president Thomas Elzey (Image: The Citadel)

A judge has ordered South Carolina State University trustees not to fire suspended President Thomas Elzey.

State Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson on Wednesday agreed with President Elzey’s arguments that he never had a chance to be heard when the board of trustees placed him on administrative leave last month. The judge said it appears the board members are about to be fired themselves by state legislators and Elzey should have the opportunity to argue for his job with whatever body replaces the trustees.

“As the Trustees responsible for making decisions regarding (Elzey’s) employment are about to change and new decision makers will take their places, it is in the public’s best interest to Stay any further action until such change in leadership occurs,” Dickson wrote in his ruling.

State senators on Wednesday gave their approval to a resolution that would replace the SC State board with an entirely new panel appointed directly by legislative leaders and the governor. The 41-1 vote came after two hours of debate about the school’s future. The House is working on a similar plan, although that version would have a state financial board select a CEO for the school, rather than an oversight panel.

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Citadel: Seven cadets withdraw from school after hazing allegations



Citadel administrators announced Wednesday that seven cadets have withdrawn from the school as an investigation into hazing incidents continues at South Carolina’s military college.

The school said two weeks ago it was investigating 85 alleged incidents. On Wednesday, commandant Capt. Geno Paluso told reporters that the school found 4 of those 85 incidents were cases of hazing, while 28 more cases are under further review. 39 cadets were disciplined for lesser non-hazing infractions and 2 complaints were dropped.

The new numbers came as Paluso briefed reporters with updates on three additional dismissals since the initial February 23 announcement that four cadets were withdrawing from campus and 20 others were being disciplined. [Read more…]