Friday, January 27, 2012

Wanted: DHEC head, skilled in health, environment issues

Failing that, a demonstrated bias against South Carolina's working class will do.

File this one in the folder labeled "Questionable appointments by Governor Nikki Haley," right behind her replacement of the University of South Carolina's largest single benefactor, Darla Moore, with a campaign contributor on the university's board of trustees. Stamp it "Service to Haley and ideology trumps service to state and people."

The state's health and environmental permitting agency is poised to get a pro-business Lowcountry lawyer as its new leader.

Catherine Templeton was selected Wednesday as the head of S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control by the agency's board.

Templeton, 41, of Mount Pleasant, is an attorney who has specialized in "union avoidance" in private practice and represented businesses in employee lawsuits. She is the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation director, appointed last year by Gov. Nikki Haley, who has pushed for easing regulations on businesses.
She takes over as commissioner of an agency that may be the state's most unwieldy -- deciding permits for everything from hospital beds to industrial air emissions and waste disposal. Its lengthy, complex permitting system is criticized even by environmental and health advocates who push for tighter regulations.

DHEC sounds like a huge and important state system, with a lot of important responsibilities in serving our people. Sounds like it requires someone with a long history in agency management, probably a deep knowledge of health and environmental issues.

Let's check what Templeton brings:

Current position: S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation director, 1 year.

Background: A private practice attorney, who has specialized in union avoidance.

Education: Wofford College, University of South Carolina School of Law graduate.

Hm. Okay, well, she has one year of experience managing a state agency -- a small one -- and she has a law degree. But she must bring some sort of background in health and environment issues that isn't obvious. Otherwise, why would a governor appoint her to such an important position, overseeing such a large and important agency?

Templeton listed no background in health or environmental science on her application.

Hm. There went that theory.

Did we not have anyone else in the state who brought experience in agency management, or awareness of health and environmental issues? Did no one else apply?

She was voted as director over Pam Dukes, a DHEC deputy commissioner, and Ingo Angermeier, a Spartanburg hospital system chief executive.

This makes no sense. A DHEC deputy commissioner and a hospital chief executive applied, and their qualifications were inferior to the thin case that Templeton makes for the position?

Does this not sound bizarre to anyone else?

John Crangle of Common Cause of South Carolina, a public interest watchdog, called her hiring bizarre, given her background and worrisome for DHEC's regulatory authority.

So now it can be said, I have common cause with Common Cause.

He pointed out that the DHEC board earlier this month reversed a staff decision and approved the controversial Savannah River dredging project, after Haley asked her appointees to meet with Georgia officials.

"With a person like Catherine Templeton as director, there will be more of the same. She'll probably do what she's told to do and not what's good for the people of South Carolina," Crangle said.

Is that it? A yes-man or, in this case, a yes-woman in a position of vital importance?

After she interviewed Templeton for the LLR position last year, Haley said it felt like she was interviewing herself.

O, crikey. The ultimate narcissist found her mirror-image in another young woman with no applicable experience and no concern for the needs of working people. How can we tell them apart?

But, come on, DHEC is a large and complex agency. The director has real responsibilities. What does Haley expect Templeton to do there?

Templeton doesn't pull her punches. She has drawn controversy over LLR decisions from laying off workers to not moving to Columbia when she took the job. She said this week about her management, "When you go in and clean house, and you have to terminate 50 or 100 people, people don't like that. But we got better and got cheaper at the same time."

Ah -- it's about firing people. The appointment of Templeton means that Haley is a lot like the presidential candidate she endorsed and escorted across the state for two weeks: Like Mitt Romney, Haley likes to fire people, and Templeton is a skilled sacker.

Which means the poor at-will employees at DHEC should steel themselves: Heads are about to roll.

She calls the DHEC job a process geek's dream. Because the agency is so large, she said, she can look at bringing in economies of scale, eliminating redundancies, deciding whether some programs should be split off to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, and taking a new look at the bigger picture of just what DHEC should or shouldn't be doing.

Well, we know how consistent Haley is in her hatred of redundancies.

Maybe, now that she has much greater responsibilities to South Carolina's people, as head of a much larger agency, she's take her public service seriously enough to move to Columbia, where she can be readily accessible to the people she manages and the people she serves.

A mother of three, Templeton makes no bones about not having moved to Columbia. She won't do it for this job either.

"We're at 2012. People can do their job from anywhere. I have never been accused of a poor work ethic. I couldn't do any more sitting in an office in Columbia. When I'm needed, I'm there," she said.

This is what we have, instead of a serious government: A governor, and her mirror-image agency head, who do nothing useful and call it everything we've ever needed.

It's ours; we elected it.

1 comment:

  1. She’s hired four highly paid advisers to help with the reviews. and laid off at the coastal division include a woman seven months pregnant, a woman whose husband already was unemployed and a worker who was close to becoming eligible for state retirement benefits.

    And she is only beginning. Is this right?

    She says she is helping the taxpayers of South Carolina by cutting the department budget. Who is helping support the unemployed. The taxpayers, so who is she helping?