April 24, 2014

Gov. Haley defends colleges in “gay lit” dispute

Haley and Hall

Gov. Haley and Hall

Updated 4/24/14

Governor Nikki Haley today shared her opinion of state lawmakers punishing public colleges for course content they find offensive.

“There are boards of colleges for a reason. We allow the boards and we allow the presidents make those decisions,” Gov. Haley said. ”I have never micromanaged how any college or university does anything.”

State Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, and State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville support targeted funding in the state budget for the College of Charleston and USC-Upstate for using gay-themed literature and plays.

Fair said a satirical performance entitled, “How To Be A Lesbian In 10 Days Or Less,” presented by USC Upstate was “recruiting lesbians.”

The Upstate school backed down. The College of Charleston has not, but the political move has had a chilling effect on the new course offerings.

South Carolina Radio Network asked Haley if she felt it was appropriate to penalize colleges for what they decide to offer their students.

“That’s a board decision, it’s not a state decision,” Haley said. “So when it comes to things of higher ed, that’s the reason we have a board. That’s the reason we have a president. That’s the reason we should let them make the decisions that are in the best interests of their students.”

Democrat Vincent Sheheen, Haley’s opponent for governor, sought out administrators at USC Upstate to show his support for academic freedom earlier this week.  He accused Haley of “hiding behind a bush” on the matter.

Haley addressed this question Wednesday at an event to award the Governor’s Professor of the Year for 2014. She honored Dr. Milind Kunchur, professor of physics at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and Christopher Hall, criminal justice instructor at Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter.

Haley’s father was once a biology professor at Voorhees College in Bamberg County.

Hall told South Carolina Radio Network that the lawmakers’ action trouble him too. “I think we’ll end up slanting education. We’ll end up teaching one side of the issue and not the other, depending on which group or party is in power.”

“Often in my classroom, I find out what side of an issue a student is on and make them on purpose take the other side so that they can see the merits of both sides of a problem or issue,” Hall said.

Simpsonville mayor to stay in office (for now) following arrest

Mayor Perry Eichor (Image: Simpsonville.com)

Mayor Perry Eichor (Image: Simpsonville.com)

Simpsonville Mayor Perry Eichor will not be suspended from office until at least next month, according to the man whose office could eventually prosecute the mayor on several criminal charges.

Governor Nikki Haley has the power to suspend any public official indicted on a crime “involving moral turpitude.” Haley has said she will suspend Eichor once she receives the indictments against him.

But 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said Wednesday that he is unlikely to secure an indictment until a grand jury meets next month.

“Our intention is that law enforcement will present the case to a grand jury for consideration at the next available time, which will most likely be in May,” Wilkins said.

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Sen. Shealy, a Haley ally, calls for DSS director’s removal


State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, during a Senate hearing into DSS problems earlier this year

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, during a Senate hearing into DSS problems earlier this year

A second state senator is now calling for Gov. Nikki Haley to remove the director of South Carolina’s child services agency.

Speaking to WTMA’s Tara Servatius on Wednesday, State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said she believed it was time for Haley to replace Department of Social Services director Lillian Koller, who is under fire for the agency’s handling of child abuse cases under their care.

The comments came one day after Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, called on the governor to remove Koller, citing unflattering new data from inside the agency. But Shealy’s position is perhaps more jarring. Lourie is a frequent critic of the Republican governor, while Shealy is considered a Haley ally. The governor even actively campaigned for Shealy against a fellow Republican in the 2012 election.

During Wednesday’s program, Servatius directly asked Shealy if it was time for Gov. Haley “to show (Koller) the door?”

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Court hearing in Harrell-Wilson scheduled for next week? Sides disagree

The next round of the fight between one of South Carolina’s most powerful politicians and its chief prosecutor will be held in a Columbia courtroom next week.

SC Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson (File)

SC Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson (File)

At least, according to one of the attorneys in the case. Problem is, the other parties involved are not confirming it.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

It’s the latest chapter in the unusual public fight between House Speaker Bobby Harrell and the man who sent his ethics case to the State Grand Jury — Attorney General Alan Wilson. Harrell’s attorneys are asking a judge to remove Wilson from the case, claiming a conflict of interest due to Wilson’s previous lobbying the House for a new ethics reform law. One of Harrell’s staffers testified last month that Wilson had offered to drop the ethics case in exchange for Harrell’s support of a new Public Integrity Unit, an accusation Wilson denies.

The Charleston Post & Courier first reported a court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 30 at 10 a.m., quoting Harrell’s attorney Gedney Howe. However, a clerk of court for the State Grand Jury would not confirm the date to reporters, saying they would be notified when a date is set. Wilson’s spokesman said the Attorney General has not been notified of any hearing.

A complaint filed against Harrell last year by the South Carolina Policy Council claimed the Speaker misused campaign funds and used his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives to benefit a pharmaceutical business he owns. Harrell denies the charges, calling them politically motivated.

Circuit Judge Casey Manning is hearing Harrell’s motion to remove Wilson.

Senator calls on governor to remove DSS director

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, on Tuesday said DSS is in "complete meltdown"

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, on Tuesday said DSS is in “complete meltdown”

A state senator on Tuesday called for Gov. Nikki Haley to remove the director of South Carolina’s child services agency, saying that new data from last month shows the agency in “complete meltdown.”

But Haley’s spokesman said the governor refused, calling the accusations politically motivated.

State Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, has been a frequent critic of the state Department of Social Services the past four months, previously calling on agency director Lillian Koller to resign. But now the Democratic senator says a new internal report inside DSS has prompted him to change tactics and instead call for the governor to fire Koller.

“When you have low employee morale, bad things are going to happen,” Lourie told reporters during a Statehouse press conference Tuesday afternoon. “But when that agency deals with vulnerable children, the outcome of that dysfunction can be very tragic.”

Lourie showed reporters new numbers from DSS internal data that showed nearly half of all children involved in reported abuse or neglect cases from March 1-31 were not visited within 24 hours, as state law requires. The senator said he was angry that DSS reported his home Richland County did not have in-person visits for more than 70 percent of cases within 24 hours. York County was nearly 74 percent of cases in March, while Anderson County was 71 percent. The statewide average was 46 percent.

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