November 22, 2014

Charleston School of Law president resigns after one week

Only eight days after the school announced she would be taking the helm, the Charleston School of Law’s incoming president has said she wants no part in the “vitriol” at the struggling school.

Maryann Jones had been announced as the private law school’s new leader just last week.

Several area media outlets reported that Jones sent an email to CSOL’s co-owners Robert Carr and George Kosko saying that she would not sign a contract with the school.

CSOL’s leaders have spent more than a year attempting to sell the school to InfiLaw System, which owns three other for-profit law schools around the country. The sale has been strongly criticized by alumni and faculty, who claim InfiLaw is a diploma mill with lower academic standards. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education has pushed to delay the acquisition, while the American Bar Association has allowed it.

In her email, which was also sent to Dean Andy Abrams, Jones said she did not want to enter an environment that she considered toxic.

“I truly only wanted to help,” the email stated. “The level of vitriol, with all sides making me a lightning rod for an unfortunate situation that was not of my making, makes this truly a situation that I am unwilling at this stage of my life to undertake.”

Carr and Kosko are pushing the sale, while a third co-owner Ed Westbrook is hoping to create a nonprofit that would instead take over the school and all three initially supported her hiring. But the Charleston Post & Courier reported Westbrook had sent Jones a heated letter accusing her her of supporting the InfiLaw purchase when she had promised to be objective.

Jones had previously served as dean emerita of Western State University College of Law in California.

All of South Carolina in early stages of drought, committee says

Image shows the impact across South Carolina (Courtesy: SCDNR)

Image shows the impact across South Carolina. Click to enlarge (Courtesy: SCDNR)

All of South Carolina is now considered to be in early drought stage, according to a declaration by a state committee Thursday.

The Drought Response Committee voted Thursday to upgrade the entire state’s drought status to the lowest level of “incipient.” In September, the committee placed nine counties in the Midlands and Savannah River regions in the incipient level. But the decision came only after some debate, especially as most weather forecasts predict rain this upcoming weekend.

“There was a lot of discussion about whether to upgrade certain counties, especially in the Upstate since there was not overwhelming support by all indicators,” State Climatologist Hope Mizzell said. “However, the committee decided to err on the side of caution and upgrade the declaration.”

Mizzell said low rainfall this fall was of concern, along with falling lake levels. A gauge in the town of Bluffton recorded only 1.44 inches of rain over the past two months, while an Aiken gauge recorded only 1.58 inches. Meanwhile, she said Lake Jocassee was nearly ten feet below full pool.

It’s the first time the entire state has been under a drought designation since April 2013. Previously only nine counties were considered to be in incipient drought. The committee recognized the forecast for heavy rain next week, but decided to upgrade the incipient status statewide. “It’s just almost like a watch,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “Hopefully, we won’t be in it very long. Hopefully we can downgrade quickly if we get these rainfalls.”

The incipient drought declaration is followed by moderate, severe and then extreme status.

State Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said the weather earlier this year has impacted crops.

“While the dry weather this fall has contributed to a good and productive harvest season, the lack of timely rainfall during the 2014 growing season was a challenge in some parts of the state,” he said in a statement. “Irrigation boosted yields for many producers, which is an important reminder that we stay vigilant in planning and managing the use of our water resources.”

SC unemployment rate up as labor force grows to record size

Construction workersSouth Carolina’s unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent in October as more people joined the labor force at a faster rate than jobs were available.

The state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) reported Friday that the estimated number of unemployed rose by almost 2,300 people in October over a month earlier. However, the data also showed that the labor force increased by 9,500 people in that span, which the agency said marked a historic high of nearly 2.2 million in the labor force. The number of estimated working South Carolinians increased by nearly 7,200 in that span.

“In October, South Carolina’s labor force hit an all-time high with an estimated 2.2 million people employed or actively looking for work,” SCDEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton said in an emailed statement. “As the state’s economy continues to grow, South Carolinians are seeking new employment opportunities. DEW will work with job seekers to match them with the more than 65,000 available jobs.”

According to SCDEW, the manufacturing sector, along with Education and Health Services, saw large bumps (more than 2,000 net jobs each), while other sectors remained stagnant.

Marion County registered the highest unemployment rate at 11.3 percent, while Lexington and Saluda counties tied for the lowest rate at 5.1 percent.

Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased to 5.8 percent in October from 5.9 percent in September.

The rate is still slightly below what it was a year ago, when it was 7 percent in October 2013. SCDEW said the state’s labor force has increased by nearly 18,800 people since that time.

Dillon councilman among 11 arrested on gambling charges

Councilman James Washington (Courtesy: City of Dillon)

Councilman James Washington (Courtesy: City of Dillon)

A Dillon city councilman was among 11 people arrested earlier this week for their role in what state police say was an illegal gambling operation, according to warrants from the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

61-year-old Councilman James Washington was arrested when SLED and the Dillon County Sheriff’s Office raided two businesses in Dillon that they believed were housing illegal gambling operations. Washington was charged with three counts of Betting, Pool Selling, Bookmaking and the like.

WPDE-TV reports arrest warrants state Washington sold $5 baseball, $6 football and $2 football tickets to a pool, with the winner to be determined based on the results of professional sports games.

Ten others were also arrested in Tuesday’s bust on similar charges. A North Carolina man was also charged with possession, manufacture, and trafficking of methamphetamine and cocaine base. The warrants did not name the businesses where they said the gambling was occurring between May and November of this year.

The crimes happened between May 16 and November 12 of 2014, the warrant says. SLED said its officers also seized thousands of dollars in cash, drugs, moonshine whiskey and arrested eight people.

Washington is involved with legal gambling in North Carolina, where he helps manage the Lucky Strike Casino located just across the state line. He was shot and injured during an October 2011 robbery at the business.

He has served on the Dillon City Council since 1999.

Effort to keep Coast Guard air station on Johns Island continues

Coast Guard

Image: Coast Guard

South Carolina lawmakers and members of Congress from Oregon have joined in calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to keep facilities in their respective states from closing next month.

Senators Tim Scott, R-SC, Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Representatives Mark Sanford, R-S.C., Tom Rice, R-S.C., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., signed the letter urging the Coast Guard to reverse its abrupt announcement from October that it would close facilities in Charleston, South Carolina and Newport, Oregon. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, also signed the letter.

The helicopter stationed at Air Facility Charleston is one of five that are based out of Air Station Savannah in Georgia. The Coast Guard had planned to reassign the vehicle as part of sequestration cuts. If finalized, any air rescue operations along the South Carolina coast must be flown out of Savannah, including operations off Myrtle Beach roughly 200 miles away.

The letter stated: “We believe that the United States Coast Guard’s decision to close air facilities in Newport, Oregon and Charleston, South Carolina would needlessly endanger mariners in our respective states and we urge you to prevent the Coast Guard from doing so,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.   While the Coast Guard claims that it will still be able to meet the national standard of a two-hour search-and-rescue response time, the lawmakers argue that fewer assets could lengthen response times and threaten the safety of local mariners.

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