Gov. Nikki Haley has named a former Navy attorney and current South Carolina Ethics Commission chairman as her new chief of staff, according to an announcement from her office Thursday.
James Burns will replace Ted Pitts, who has taken a job with the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Burns is currently an attorney with the prominent Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough law firm out of Columbia. Prior to that, he served as a deputy counsel in the Pentagon’s Vice Chief of Naval Operations office and a military attorney. He is a graduate of The Citadel military college in Charleston.
Burns also spent the past nine months as chairman of the state Ethics Commission after his February appointment by Haley. He received some brief attention this summer after announcing new guidelines for dealing with media interviews that reduced the number of staffers who could talk to reporters. While news organizations questioned the move as a political decision, Burns maintained it was about protecting the integrity of investigations since the agency’s attorneys would be involved in potential prosecutions for ethics violations.
The governor is currently in India, but released a statement Thursday calling Burns “a great addition.” “His integrity and outstanding reputation as a leader, combined with his understanding of both our policy and legislative goals, is exactly what we need to start this second term the same way we ended the first – fighting to make South Carolina a better place to live,” she stated. “The last four years have been great ones for our state, but we still have a lot to accomplish and I know that James is the best person to help us get the job done.”
Pitts has worked with Haley’s administration during her entire first term in office. He served first as a legislative liaison before being promoted to chief of staff last year. Prior to that, he served with Haley as a fellow Lexington County legislator in the South Carolina House. He is also a major in the South Carolina Army National Guard.