Friday, February 10, 2012

Senators approve unqualified candidate for Haley's Cabinet

Let me ask some questions.

If someone with no experience in health care or public relations wanted a job in public relations for a regional hospital, could they get one? In South Carolina, sure; Nikki Haley did it.

If someone who had no background in education whatsoever wanted a job teaching children in public schools, could they get one? In South Carolina, sure. Happens all the time. It's part of the campaign to undermine and discredit public schools.

If someone who had no experience in surgery wanted to get a job operating on patients, could they get one? No, because that's serious business.

See, some thing qualify as serious business, and other things don't.

This must be the standard applied by senators this week to Governor Nikki Haley's appointee for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Catherine Templeton. I mentioned Haley's appointment of Templeton when it was made, and this week, senators on a Senate panel got to examine Templeton's qualifications to run DHEC for themselves. It was light work, at the end of which the committee voted 13 to nothing, with several senators inexplicably abstaining rather than voting against her.

Haley, of course, popped a cork via Facebook in praise of her BFF.

Gov. Nikki Haley praised the selection. The Republican governor picked Templeton, a 41-year-old lawyer who lives in Mount Pleasant, as director of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation about a year ago. Since taking office, she has helped Haley fight unions.

“We would like to congratulate one of our rock-star Cabinet directors, Catherine Templeton, for getting screened out of committee to be the next director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control,” Haley said on her Facebook page.

I wonder what Pitchfork Ben Tillman would have thought of communicating with South Carolinians through Facebook. Or Jimmy Byrnes. Would Wade Hampton have called his Cabinet members "rock stars"?

Probably not. It's not gubernatorial. But we've got Haley instead of Hampton, haven't we?

Seeing the wing-nut juggernaut powering Templeton's appointment, only a few senators paused to raise questions. History will want to record their names and their questions, surely.

They questioned Templeton’s decision to lay off dozens of employees at the labor department, why she has discussed eliminating numerous LLR divisions such as the Real Estate Commission, why she requested a salary that is about $30,000 higher than DHEC’s last commissioner – and why she won’t move to Columbia to run the agency.

“A whole lot of us would be real comfortable if we knew that you were there – or at least set three or four days, that you will be in Columbia,” Sen. Ralph Anderson, D-Greenville, said.

Sen. Anderson was referring to the fact that Templeton, the rock star member of Haley's Cabinet, has seen no need to spend her term living and working in Columbia, the state's capital since 1786. She has been just as effective undermining working families from her home in Mount Pleasant, and one can see why when comparing the demographics and economics of Columbia and Mount Pleasant.


The median income for a household in the city was $31,141, and the median income for a family was $39,589. Males had a median income of $30,925 versus $24,679 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,853. About 17.0% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.7% of those under the age of 18 and 16.9% ages 65 or older.

And Mount Pleasant:

The median income for a household in the town was $61,054, and the median income for a family was $71,165. Males had a median income of $50,673 versus $31,640 for females. The per capita income for the town was $30,823. About 3.2% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.3% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.

Clearly, Mount Pleasant is, well, pleasanter. Fewer poor people. More money. And don't forget the view...

So Templeton batted that silly old question away with a non-response.

Templeton said she will be on the road a lot and will be available, whether or not she runs DHEC from Columbia.

Foolish senator, asking such a foolish question.

And money? How gauche to speak of money.

Although she has requested a salary of about $180,000, Templeton said she’s not interested in the job for the money.

And she'll get it, too, the job and the money. 'Cause she's a rock star from Mount Pleasant sitting in Haley's Cabinet and overlooking the pretty sea.

Who are you to question it?


Perhaps the biggest concern voiced Thursday is whether DHEC will become too accommodating to businesses needing pollution permits from the agency, which Haley has said needs to be more business friendly.
“I’ve gotten calls from constituents …. who said ‘Senator, how can you support someone who does not come with the background for the job, especially when there are so many more eminently qualified people – and people every day are let go from their jobs who have tremendous backgrounds?’” Pinckney asked.

You can imagine her thoughts when listening to the question: How disrespectful to question a lady of such bearing about qualifications. In the old days this never would have happened.

Hutto asked Templeton a series of questions about her knowledge of specific environment and health issues, such as South Carolina’s infant mortality rate, the leading cause of death in South Carolina, and DHEC’s role in bioterror matters. She said she did not know the answers.

Stupid little questions. What a body must endure to get a high-paying Cabinet job these days. Who the hell cares about infant mortality rates and bioterrorism? Count the votes. Pay me.

Hutto also questioned why the DHEC board publicly advertised for a director with a degree in health, environmental management, business administration or a related field, but picked someone without those qualifications. Democrats said it appeared Templeton was targeted for the job from the start. “They posted a job description you don’t fit,” Hutto said.

You forgot one little thing, Senator: I'm a rock star on Nikki Haley's Cabinet. I see what I want, and I take it, and you will give it to me and do so happily.

Templeton, who spoke calmly and confidently during Thursday’s packed confirmation hearing, said she doesn’t need extensive experience in environment or health.

For that matter, I don't need extensive experience in anything having to do with public service. You are but a rural senator in a legislative minority, and I have been your governor's right hand for the past year. This DHEC thing is a little ol' management job. If you have any questions, you can ask the people I haven't yet fired about my management skills.

“I don’t think it’s too trivial to point out that there are people from LLR sitting behind me that can talk to you about whether or not I can manage people,” she said.

And that represented the organized opposition to Templeton's appointment. After those fearful of her heaped praise, the vote was called and taken.

Templeton’s limited experience in the environment and health arena, as well as questions about DHEC’s future direction, prompted Democratic Sens. Joel Lourie, Brad Hutto and Clementa Pinckney to abstain from approving her nomination.

So she won it by a vote of 13 to nothing.

Auspicious beginning.

Word to wise DHEC managers: Begin now to lighten your office walls and desk. It'll make your last day that much less stressful.

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