The state loaned a historic landmark in Charleston, Patriots Point, $9 million to repair the warship Laffey. However, that destroyer has not been brought back to the museum yet. For reasons, such as this one, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell of Charleston has written a letter to the Legislative Audit Council concerning the state-owned historic museum.
I wrote about a three page letter to the Legislative Audit Council and asked them to do a management performance audit at Patriots Point. A management performance audit looks at how they’re performing, how are they utilizing their resources, are they doing it efficiently, where are they headed, do they have a good blue-print for the future? And, it lets in the light on their bookkeeping, their accounting, their inventory, what are they spending on consultants, lawyers, and all these sorts of things.
Patriots Point Executive Director Dick Trammell says he welcomes the opportunity for an audit. Trammell says they have sent a letter to Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman explaining the plan Patriots Point has to pay back the $9 million. Trammell says they do not see the audit as a negative.
McConnell has 19 inquiries in the letter and says an audit of the museum could save Patriots Point. He says he sent the letter due to years of frustration.
Years ago, Patriots Point got into difficulty. The taxpayers forgave I think almost $5 million in debt, allowed them to move forward. Since that time we find out that they are sitting on a liability, they have not kept the Yorktown up. The Yorktown is a future liability. The Laffey was in terrible shape.
McConnell says he and other lawmakers saw the bad shape the Laffey was in, so they agreed to the loan.
They came to Columbia and asked for a $9 million emergency loan from the taxpayers to fix the Laffey. We gave it to them. They said they could pay it back with stimulus money and they had some other plans. We made it clear it was a loan to save the Laffey.
So, the Laffey is now fixed, but-
Now they claim they don’t have the money to put the Laffey back because they allowed the docks to be built in too close to the ships, and you got to take the docks up to put the ship back in. That’s a $400,000 expense. Then they turn around, and they are renting space on the Cooper River where people can’t go see the Laffey, and they have it docked there, and they’re going to pay $140,000 a year to dock it there.
But, that’s not all, says McConnell.
And, then they turn around several months later and come back to Columbia without telling us how they are going to pay off the loan and they want authorization to take $1.2 million in Phase 1 out of their reserves to go build a new parking lot when they already have a parking lot.
McConnell says there seems to be a contradiction.
It’s amazing to me that on one hand you claim you don’t have the money to put the exhibit back, and then you want to build a parking lot for people to come see the exhibit, and you haven’t got all the exhibits out there and you have a big parking lot . And, if you got a reserve, why then didn’t you have the money then to put the Laffey back?
The Legislative Audit Council will review McConnell’s request by September.