When Gov. Nikki Haley said she favors small government, we didn’t realize she meant a government of one. But less than a year into office, the governor has exhibited a pattern of excessive control over state agencies that has many state employees worried about their ability to do their jobs serving the people of South Carolina.
Despite attempts by Gov. Haley’s office to delete emails and circumvent public records laws, the governor’s autocratic tendencies are beginning to come to light thanks to Freedom of Information Act requests and a steady stream of leaks. The common theme emerging is how Haley’s micromanaging tends to benefit herself, her family and her political career, often at the expense of the state she was elected to lead.
In March, the state took $1 million in federal money to set up a Health Planning Committee tasked with creating the state’s health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. But before the committee ever met, according to the Charleston Post & Courier, Governor Haley directed them to issue their recommendation against creating the exchange. Eight months and a million dollars later, the committee did exactly that.
While Haley’s anti-Washington stance boosts her credibility as a conservative warrior, the committee’s decision leaves South Carolina’s uninsured stuck with a federal health care exchange, which could lead to confusion and substandard care once the exchange goes into effect in 2014.
Then in late October, the governor instructed the Department of Health and Environmental Control to re-hear Georgia’s application for a permit to dredge the Savannah port. Haley’s handpicked board overturned DHEC staff’s initial decision and approved the permit, giving Georgia’s ports a competitive advantage over our own.
The move drew widespread criticism among Palmetto State environmental and business groups, as well as Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike. Many critics contend Governor Haley influenced the board at the request of Georgia Gov. Nathan “Let’s Make A” Deal, possibly in exchange for a promised speaking spot at the Republican National Convention.
As the “Savannah River Sellout” was just coming to light in November, the governor ordered Department of Public Safety officers to arrest Occupy Columbia members who remained outside the State House after 6:00pm, despite Columbia city police finding that no laws had been broken. The governor later backed down after hundreds of people publicly challenged the order, and a judge later ruled that Haley had acted outside her authority.
Around the same time, Haley’s hand-picked Department of Natural Resources board allegedly conspired to get rid of agency director John Frampton in favor of a more “business-friendly” (read: environmentally-unfriendly) director. The move dismayed even Haley’s predecessor and mentor, former Gov. Mark Sanford.
Of course, Haley and her staff were quick to deny any involvement or influence. But given the governor’s autocratic track record and signs that her fingerprints are all over Frampton’s ouster, it’s hard not to view the claim with more than a little skepticism.