Members of a South Carolina House committee have asked for the resignation of the state’s public safety director, saying they do not have confidence in his leadership.
The letter from members of the House Oversight Committee follows more than a year of its review into the Department of Public Safety. Their report and a corresponding survey by the state Inspector General’s office found low morale and high turnover among the agency’s Highway Patrol troopers.
Legislators have focused their ire on director Leroy Smith, citing troopers concern about his focus on discipline even for minor offenses. That even led one captain David Whatley to resign in a committee meeting on Monday.
“When the climate at the Department of Public Safety is such that its mission is compromised as a consequence of the failure of leadership, change is needed.” states the letter signed by committee chairman State Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton, and 13 others. The signees include nine Republicans and four Democratic members of the committee, plus former House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville. Not all members of the committee signed off on the letter, however.
Smith has defended himself, saying the turnover issues at his agency are no worse than recruiting troubles afflicting law enforcement across the country. He also cited the agency’s performance during three named hurricanes or tropical storms that impacted South Carolina the past two years.
Members of the House have shown their displeasure with Smith for a year, even approving language in their budget proposal this past which stripped his salary out of the budget. Senators restored the money in the final version.