A new audit into the State Farmers Market claims South Carolina agriculture officials did not follow good real estate practices when they purchased sections of the site from a property owner who had donated the maximum allowed towards the reelection campaign of South Carolina’s agriculture commissioner.
The report released by the Legislative Audit Council on Thursday warns an appraiser who evaluated the $7 million sale may have relied too heavily on the limited liability corporation that benefitted from selling the land. It also said Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers should have informed legislators that a political donor owned the property when he asked those legislators to set aside funds for the purchase.
But Weathers angrily accused the audit of making inappropriate insinuations of a political quid pro quo even though no laws were broken.
State Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, requested the audit last year after the Department of Agriculture paid $7.06 million for about nine acres of additional property at the farmer’s market in 2013. Three years earlier, the market relocated from its old downtown Columbia location to the site near Dixiana in order to provide better highway access for the larger wholesalers which operate on the property.