South Carolina Statehouse | file photo

The state Legislative Audit Council is recommending the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) to become a cabinet agency after three general findings: the current agency’s structure is unique compared to other states; “inappropriate behavior” by current commissioners; and a boost in commission expenses.

“The current Commission has overreached in its role, may have violated state law, and has exhibited inappropriate behavior,” auditors wrote in a 46-page report. “These are other 

indications that change is needed to the agency structure.”  In a response, three commissioners agreed to study a change.

Among the issues:

The agency’s unique structure. Auditors say South Carolina operates its disability agency differently than any other state and could benefit as a new cabinet agency under the governor’s office.  “We have confirmed that no other state has an independent state disability agency governed by a commission, like South Carolina,” the report said. “Also, we found that there are fewer than 10 standalone disability agencies nationwide.”

Inappropriate commissioner behavior. The report said members of the seven-person commission “may have violated state open meetings law and has exhibited inappropriate behavior.” Of concern in the report were allegations of violating state open meetings laws, micromanagement and interference with staff.

Increase in commission expenses. The report said it found some frivolous spending on items for commissioners, inadequate expense documentation, and increased per diem and travel reimbursements. “Per diem and travel expenses related to the Commission have increased 60% from 2016 to 2021, the report said. “The Commission held more meetings in 2021 than in 2016, 2017 and 2018 combined.”

In a response for the agency, Interim State Director Constance Holloway said the audit’s 23 recommendations would be taken into consideration by the agency, which would work to make appropriate changes.

Three commissioners, she wrote, “all agree that the best course of action for DDSN moving forward would be for the agency to be made a part of the governor’s proposed $5 million Restructuring Study and Plan for Health Agencies … [which] would provide a comprehensive plan for DDSN and provide better insight as to whether the commission should be eliminated.”

In other news this week:

Ethics Committee reprimands Graham for solicitations. The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee has admonished U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for soliciting campaign contributions for Georgian Herschel Walker inside a federal building after a November 2022 Fox News interview. Members of the panel said Graham violated Senate rules and standards of conduct by conducting the interview in a Senate office building.

S.C. Senate OKs bill barring foreign adversary land ownership. The S.C. Senate passed a bill Thursday that would bar citizens of “foreign adversary” nations from buying property in the state.

S.C. senators renew push to split DHEC. South Carolina senators are renewing a call to split the major health organization after the shortfalls it had last year.

Proposed bill could loosen regulations on S.C.’s craft beer industry. A bill advancing at the Statehouse would let beer drinkers take more of their favorite craft brew home from South Carolina breweries.

S.C. lawmaker pitches voluntary no-sell list to curb gun suicides. A new bill introduced March 15 in the S.C. Senate aims to reduce the number of people who kill themselves with guns by creating a voluntary do-not-sell list for firearms.

Former U.S. Rep. Jenrette dies at 86. Former U.S. Rep. John Jenrette, a Grand Strand Democrat who spent time in prison following the Abscam scandal, died Friday at age 86.

5 dead in gun violence at Sumter home. A former soldier shot and killed three children, including two of his own, as they slept in their Sumter home Tuesday night. He also killed an Army soldier who worked with his ex-wife before shooting himself. Authorities said the active-duty soldier had no relationship with the ex-wife other than as co-worker.

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