A $90,000 raise to the director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education created quite an outcry across state government this past weekend.
The PR debacle came as the commission wades into battle with state lawmakers against South Carolina’s public colleges and universities over tuition increases.
Director Jeff Schilz Tuesday told the Senate Joint Education and Finance Study Committee that he received a phone call last week informing him that his salary was invalid because it needed to be approved by the Agency Head Salary Commission, a legislative-controlled panel which signs off on the salaries of most state agency chiefs.
.“She communicated to me that a mistake had been made,” Schilz said. “That this should have gone before the committee. And that she had to put my salary back to what it was previously and requested that I return the balance.” Schilz said that he immediately complied with that.
Schilz had received the pay raise — which was approved by the commission in a closed-door executive session — when he was named permanent director after previously working as the interim.
Senate President pro tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence — who has clashed with the Higher Education Commission over the past two years — even went as far as to call for Schilz’s resignation over the weekend.
State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, told Schilz that the damage has been done from the mistake.
“Rightly or wrongly this action has ‘Etch-a-Sketched’ all the good that we’ve have done over the last year and a half,” he said, comparing the past weekend to the popular children’s toy which can erase a drawing with a few shakes.