Effectively taking sides in the brouhaha between Governor Nikki Haley and Treasurer Curtis Loftis, the House just voted to sustain Haley's veto of funding for the State Treasurer's office to conduct follow-ups to audits. The vote was 18 to 93.
Loftis told media last night, "She chose to take a swipe at me and harm taxpayers. There’s nobody in state government whose job it is to follow up on those audits."
Haley has sought to exclude or ignore Loftis since they both entered office in January.
Rep. Murrell Smith asked the body to sustain Haley's veto, claiming that the language would allow Loftis to bring legal actions on behalf of the state. A letter circulated by Attorney General Alan Wilson to House members supported Haley's position. Rep. Ted Vick asked whether Wilson was acting as a "puppet for the governor." Smith said he'd heard no such rumor.
Rep, Harry Ott asked for help to understand fraud and abuse, saying, "If you identify somebody who has defrauded the government, the state, and they have money that they have kept or obtained under flse pretenses, who in state government now... goes after recouping that money that somebody has defrauded the state government out of, if not the State Treasurer?
A solicitor or the attorney general prosecutes criminal action, but the attorney general can bring legal action on behalf of the state, Smith explained.
Smith said Wilson would be willing to work with Loftis to craft appropriate language to resolve the issue.
"If we do as you would ask, then who can I go to and hold them accountable for weeding out and finding people that I hear about, abusing state government, taking money? Who is in charge?"
Smith said the state inspector general would serve that role.
"But we don't have one," Ott said.
Smith said the state has a "de facto inspector general."
So such investigations would be left to "an inspector general, who works for the governor?" Ott asked, without receiving a clear answer.
Ott asked why constitutional concerns were not raised when the issue was originally going through the House and its committees, then asked, "Can you assure me that we have someone working for the state who will answer to the voters and taxpayers?"
Smith said there was such an authority.
Ott alluded to the feud between Haley and Loftis, asking, "What was the momentum behind this?"
Smith deferred to Rep. Jim Merrill, who herded the issue through committee. He said committee members drew up a proviso that was flawed, and that by sustaining Haley's veto, the House would give itself a chance to draft new, appropriate language next year.