April 26, 2015

Former Duke Energy executive tapped to lead SC environmental agency

Catherine Heigel (LinkedIn)

Catherine Heigel (LinkedIn)

The board of South Carolina’s public health and environmental agency has tapped a former Duke Energy executive to lead the agency during Gov. Nikki Haley’s second term.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) board, whose members are appointed by the governor, voted unanimously for Catherine Heigel in a Friday teleconference. Her nomination must now be confirmed by the Senate.

Heigel currently works as a general counsel for the accounting firm Elliott Davis Decosimo in Greenville. Prior to that she spent 11 years at Duke Energy, including serving as president of the company’s South Carolina operations from 2010 until 2012.

She will replace Catherine Templeton, who announced her resignation from the post in January to pursue other opportunities. After her resignation, the board chose former state insurance director Eleanor Kitzman for the post. But Kitzman’s nomination was held up in the Statehouse, where Democratic senators (and even some Republicans) questioned her credentials and her close fundraising ties to Gov. Haley. Kitzman eventually withdrew her name from consideration.

Board members said they selected Heigel from among 99 applicants. The board said its two other finalists were Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Michael Wolf and Timothy Keck, the chief of staff for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. State law requires the top three finalists be made public.

Heigel’s salary would be $155,000 per year if she is confirmed, according to statements made during Friday’s meeting.

Gowdy sends Clinton 136 questions prior to appearance before Benghazi committee

Rep. Trey Gowdy (FILE)

Rep. Trey Gowdy (FILE)

In a letter that requested she appear before a House committee investigating the 2012 attacks on American facilities in Beghazi, Libya, the committee’s chairman Trey Gowdy has sent a letter asking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to answer more than 130 questions.

But only about 8 of the 136 questions are related to the attack itself. The overwhelming majority deal with a private email server that Clinton used instead of a State Department account. Discussing Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of private email with which to conduct public business is a necessary predicate to discussing the facts surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi,” Gowdy explained in a letter sent to Clinton’s attorney David Kendall.

Initially, Gowdy had asked Clinton to answer the questions in a private, transcribed hearing before the committee before returning for a public hearing on the attacks at a later date. But Clinton’s camp rejected the private hearing in favor of a single, public one.

The letter indicates the committee hopes to schedule a hearing by June 18, but also notes it would only agree on a date after it has “a complete record with which to have a constructive conversation.” The committee’s leading Democrat noted that the former Secretary had agreed to testify in November, but Gowdy said that was before the committee knew about the private email server. Clinton has previously said she deleted all files off her private server after saving those official emails related to her time with the State Department.

Even the Beghazi-related questions deal with Clinton’s email and when she knew about document requests that would have included her emails. They include:

— Did you communicate with (Libya Ambassador) Chris Stevens by email?

— Prior to your departure from the Department of State, were you ever asked to identify records or did you offer to provide records potentially responsive to congressional requests for documents or materials related to the 2012 Benghazi attacks? If so, what steps did you take to identify and produce such records?

— Were you aware of Freedom of Information Act requests for documents and materials related to the 2012 Benghazi attacks? If so, when did you become aware of the requests for these documents and materials?

— Prior to your departure from the Department of State, were you ever asked to identify records or did you offer to provide records potentially responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests for documents or materials related to the 2012 Benghazi attacks? If so, what steps did you take to identify and produce such records?

— Were you ever asked to provide or did you ever offer to provide records to the Benghazi Accountability Review Board?

— Were you aware of requests from the House Select Committee on Benghazi for documents and materials relating to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi? If so, when did you become aware of the requests for documents and materials?

— Were you ever contacted specifically with respect to identifying records potentially responsive to requests from the House Select Committee on Benghazi for documents or materials related to the 2012 Benghazi attacks, or did you offer to provide such records? If so, what steps did you take to identify and produce such records?

House moves towards ‘compromise’ in replacing SC State trustees

SC State logoState House leaders said Thursday they are offering a compromise for legislation the would oust the board of trustees at struggling South Carolina State University.

Both the House and Senate want to remove the school’s current board, but remain divided on who would replace them. The Senate wants a new interim five-member board chosen by primarily by legislative budget and education committee leaders, while the House proposal would have members of the Budget and Control Board (the governor, State Treasurer, Comptroller General, and the House and Senate budget chairmen) make the appointments.

The House on Thursday passed what its leaders viewed as compromise: instead of five members, the new SC State board would have seven. It would combine both bills so that each elected official in both versions would pick the new panel.

“We’re all very anxious to get to a resolution and to compromise,” said State Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce, who floated the idea. “Hopefully, this amendment will get us there.”

The House voted 89-7 in support of their compromise language. All “no” voted came from members of the Legislative Black Caucus, who said they preferred the Senate version.

Bingham had hoped the Senate would take up the matter before adjourning for the weekend, but senators did not take up the bill Thursday. They are expected to take it up once they return next Tuesday.

An audit into SC State found the school will owe vendors and the state nearly $24 million by July. Many legislators blame dysfunction and lack of action by the board for making financial problems worse as the school struggles with decreasing enrollment and declining federal scholarship aid. The board claims state lawmakers have not fully funded the school as needed.

The college’s board of trustees were meeting in executive session as the House voted to replace them. They were still meeting as of Thursday afternoon.

SC Big Story: Senate revives bonds package to pay for college construction

University of South Carolina women's basketball team was honored in the House on Wednesday. Players included Tiffany Mitchell, center, and Aleighsa Welch, right (Image: SCETV)

University of South Carolina women’s basketball team was honored in the House on Wednesday. Players included Tiffany Mitchell, center, and Aleighsa Welch, right (Image: SCETV)

A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.

The state Senate’s budget committee has voted to revive a bonds package that seeks to raise nearly $237 million for construction projects at colleges and technical colleges. The State newspaper reports the Senate Finance Committee approved the borrowing package by a 16-5 vote Wednesday.

The package is much smaller than the nearly $500 million approved by the House budget committee last month. That version was tossed out of next year’s proposed budget after Gov. Nikki Haley and many House Republicans came out against the idea.

The Governor’s Office is warning it will veto this new proposal as well should it reach her desk. But the leader of the Senate Republicans said he’s not sure the bond package will even clear the Senate, where it would require a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, one of Haley’s allies in the Senate, said a two-thirds vote would be needed.

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Lawmakers frustrated with yet more delays for state database that’s 17 years late

DSS Senior Project Manager Jimmy Earley told legislators the system won't be certified until possibly 2019 (Image: SCETV)

DSS Senior Project Manager Jimmy Earley told legislators the system won’t be certified until possibly 2019 (Image: SCETV)

A panel of South Carolina legislators expressed their frustrations Wednesday that a child support database that was supposed to be finished 17 years ago is still possibly four more years away from completion.

The comments came as the Joint Bond Review Committee heard an update from the state Department of Social Services over its well-documented struggles to get the database up and running. The database, which has now gone through four different contractors and several legal challenges, was supposed to be a way for state officials to keep tabs on parents who pay child support. A 1988 federal law required the system to be in place by 1998.

DSS has been assessed more than $120 million in total fines for being the only state that is not in compliance with the law, according to agency senior project manager Jimmy Earley. Earley said a settlement was reached with previous contractor Hewlett-Packard in January that would require the company to pay more than $77 million of those penalties for not completing the project.

A new contract has been reached with Xerox, pending federal approval, that would task the corporation to set up both the long-delayed system and a separate family court case database. Earley said officials hope to save time by basing the system off a similar version used in Delaware.

[Read more…]