Garrick completely unsatisfied by hearing on Richland County voting debacle, and so am I

This latest release from Rep. Mia Garrick reminds me that I had meant to post something about yesterday’s fairly useless hearing on the Richland County voting debacle, but got sidetracked:

After yesterday’s “legislative fact-finding,” the public can now add a plethora of excuses to this real-life “reality TV” drama.  From the nameless subordinate who screwed everything up to the mysterious numbers in red that just magically appeared, we can blame this debacle on broken voting machine batteries and phantom PEBs…but alas, there we were 20 days and a grueling 3.5 hours later, and very few new facts, if any, were revealed.

Here’s what we knew before Monday’s meeting:

  • The Richland County Election Commission broke the law on Election day, by deploying an inadequate number of machines at most Richland County precincts.
  • No one, including the Director, can tell us why.
  • Many Richland County voters stood in line for 3-6 hours or more, braving cold, harsh conditions regardless of age, physical conditions or disabilities
  • Many Richland County voters were not able to cast their ballots because of the extensive waits and were effectively disenfranchised.
  • Although these Ivotronic machines have been in use across SC for 8 years now, only Richland County had the types of issues we faced on Nov. 6.  The other 45 counties executed their elections without significant incident.

Here’s what Monday’s 3.5 hour fact-finding hearing revealed:

  • The Richland County Election Commission broke the law on Election day, by deploying an inadequate number of machines at most Richland County precincts.
  • No one, including the Director, can tell us why.
  • Many Richland County voters stood in line for 3-6 hours or more, braving cold, harsh conditions regardless of age, physical conditions or disabilities.
  • Many Richland County voters were not able to cast their ballots because of the extensive waits and were effectively disenfranchised.
  • Although these Ivotronic machines have been in use across SC for 8 years now, only Richland County had the types of issues we faced on Nov. 6.  The other 45 counties executed their elections without significant incident.

The technical aspects of how the machines work shouldn’t have been our primary focus and yet, the first half of our meeting was devoted to technical information that is of little or no value to voters who only want assurances that they can exercise their rights to vote and that their votes will be counted.

But this hearing wasn’t really about the voters of Richland County, was it?  If it had been, members of the legislative delegation wouldn’t have been forced to “sign-up” like school kids, just to ask questions of the Director and Commissioner. What’s the purpose of having a “legislative fact-finding” hearing if legislators can’t ask probing questions?  Why would any legislator be chastised for suggesting, as I did, that the delegation also give the public/voters an opportunity to be heard?

Yesterday’s meeting seemed to be more about confusing or minimizing the facts, rather than “finding” them.  Like many of you, I don’t think they were ever “lost.”  And although I’m one of the delegation’s newest members, I don’t need permission to host a public hearing in my District.  I’ve already hosted several in the 2 years I’ve served and will host more over the next 2 years.

But this Election Day disaster was not unique to House District 79.  In fact, every Richland County voter was impacted.  So I simply argued that our legislative delegation should want to hear from every voter who wants to be heard.  After all, we’re elected to represent you, so shouldn’t you be an integral and important part of this so-called fact-finding mission?

This is not about “throwing the Director (or anyone else) under the bus.”  It’s about holding those responsible for this debacle, accountable.  And even more importantly, it’s about the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of voters across Richland County who faced unprecedented and unnecessary impediments while trying to cast their ballots. It’s about the Richland County voters who were disenfranchised and denied their fundamental rights on that day.

Maybe some of my colleagues in the delegation didn’t witness the devastation of voters who were disenfranchised on Nov. 6th, but I did.  And I’ll never forget it.

After 20 days, we’re left with more questions than answers, more apologies, more confusion and more blaming.  And yet, there’s no accountability and admittedly, no plan for moving forward.

That does absolutely nothing to restore my confidence in the county’s election commission leaders or its electoral process.  So tell me…what does it do for yours?

Sounds like Rep. Garrick has a problem with delegation chairman Darrell Jackson, among others.

I agree that it’s absurd that we are still waiting for satisfactory answers as to how this happened, and more importantly, how it will be avoided in the future.

Keep watching, folks. This is what it’s like when a legislative delegation — an entity made up of people who were elected individually and separately for an entirely different purpose — tries to run something. Accountability is well-nigh impossible.

131 thoughts on “Garrick completely unsatisfied by hearing on Richland County voting debacle, and so am I

  1. susanincola

    All I got out of the hearing (and I sat through all of it) is that Lillian McBride is absolutely not competent to be running any sort of significant project (including a large election) and needs to be relieved of those duties.

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  2. Doug Ross

    We know who screwed up. Anything less than Ms. McBride being shown the door reeks of political corruption/favoritism.

    If one elderly black man had been denied the right to vote because he didn’t have an id card, I guarantee we’d be hearing a whole lot more about that than this obvious voter disenfranchisement.

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  3. susanincola

    One other thing, to be more specific. Her position needs to be that of a project manager, or she needed an effective project manager under her. I think her experience is in first-line supervisory management of an ongoing enterprise — which is what voter registration is. But running a large election is more like managing a time-sensitive project. She didn’t seem to have any concept of risk management at all, or even to follow a project plan that includes checks and tests and redundancies. Why were a subset of machines not retested as they went out? Where was the feedback loop of spot checking what she expected to happen versus what happened? So many things jumped out at me as not being done in a way that would catch errors of the type that they had.
    Only a few of the questioners asked decent questions (Mia being one of them), and I question whether the delegation really understands what is required to do this sort of job. Also, I’m sure Steve Hamm is a capable guy, but he’s a lawyer, not a project manager, and I am not sure that he will be able to clearly identify the problem, either (though I hope he will). (Beyond Ms McBride’s lack of appropriate skills, which is obvious).

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  4. Mark Stewart

    While I appreciate her leadership here – on behalf of the whole county – it does make it easier that she had no role in this legislative delegation appointment.

    Still, she deserves credit for speaking up, and loudly.

    Are the other 13, or more likely 10 or so, going to shed some light on this patronage stink or are they going to duck and cover and hope for the return of the same ol’, same ol’? Because right now the stink is sticking to ALL members of the delegation.

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  5. Brad

    Bob McAlister (former chief of staff to Gov. Carroll Campbell) is saying this tonight on Facebook:

    “At least a couple of legislators from our county are displaying guts. Senator John Courson tonight called for the resignation of the election commission chairwoman who botched the election. And Rep. Mia Garrick sent out an email blast blasting the heck out of the commission and her fellow legislators who are trying to protect incompetent people. I hope Mia posts her email on FB since I can’t figure out how to get it from my email box to FB. Now I’m waiting on my resident Senator, Joel Lourie, to weigh in on this mess. Joel?”

    I hadn’t seen anything from Courson, but good for him. I might give Joel a call in the morning.

    Unlike Susan, I wasn’t there, but from the story in the paper this morning, it seems James Smith wasn’t satisfied with Ms. McBride’s efforts to evade responsibility:

    “Only under direct questioning by Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, did McBride accept any responsibility for any of the election missteps.

    “As director, whose responsibility was it to make sure there were enough machines in each precinct?” Smith asked.”

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  6. Brad

    What’s that about, I wonder? Are the McBrides just that popular in his district, or what? Because most pols would have been moving away from her starting on Election Day.

    I’ve been puzzled by Sen. Jackson’s attitude on this so far…

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  7. Bob Blencowe

    Representative Garrick deserves a hearty pat on the back for standing up to Jackson’s cabal.

    There was a brief side-conversation at the hearing that needs to be delved into. Both Jackson and Neal made a comment concerning the former Elections Director (Cinema?) that I hope some intrepid reporter gives another glance.

    Senator Jackson reminds me of the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” for some odd reason — especially as he is also a pastor.

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  8. Silence

    @Bryan Caskey – I wish that I could take you up on your bet, but I think you are correct. Nobody will get fired. McBride might resign, but the delegation will giver her the option.

    Even if she wasn’t directly responsible for setting up the machines or checking them to see if they worked, she’s ultimately the person accountable for the day.

    If the delegation does nothing, it makes it look even more like the fix was in.

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  9. Kathryn Fenner

    She says she’s not related to Frank McBride.

    The only legitimate reason I can think of for Jackson’s stance is that Christian forgiveness thing. He is a pastor, right?

    And if he wants to be all pastoral, maybe he needs to not be a leader. Sometimes the job requires harsher actions.

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  10. bud

    Puzzled is an understatement. This woman made more than $85k and she can’t even provide the most basic information as to why there were not enough voting machines. Yet Jackson dismissively chalks it up to an understandable, honest mistake. There is one thing and one thing only McBride had to get right and that’s the elections with the biggest one occuring only once every four years. That’s the kind of mistake that just should not happen. Given that the other 45 counties got it essentially right speaks volumes about the lack of competency of Ms. McBride.

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  11. Doug Ross

    Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t get the sense Brad that you want to assign accountability to specific people for this mess. You seem to be more concerned with the system than the players.

    Is Senator Jackson’s attitude just “puzzling” or is it unacceptable? Should Lillian McBride remain in her job or not? And you “might” call Joel Lourie… why hasn’t Mr. Lourie spoken out about this issue without his constituents having to call him? On Fitsnews there is a quote that says “Hell, one of the State Senators who serves on the county’s legislative delegation is the brother-in-law of one of the election commission members – one of several familial entanglements associated with this scam. You think that this Senator – Democrat Joel Lourie – really wants answers here?”

    This whole debacle doesn’t pass the most basic sniff test. It stinks of patronage and incompetence.

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  12. Greg

    1. They certified Ted Vick despite questions about more than enough ballots to put that race in question.
    2. Where does Clementa Pinckney actually live?
    3. Richland County still smells a lot like Florida, if you know what I mean.
    All so embarassing to South Carolina.

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  13. Brad

    Doug, you’re not paying attention. First, I expressed my agreement with Mia, who among other things is calling Darrell out. Then, I applauded Courson’s call for Ms. McBride to be gone.

    But I also have an inquiring mind. It’s not enough for me that Sen. Jackson is doing wrong; I want to know why. There’s some dynamIc going on here I can’t quite figure out. Maybe you’re not curious, but I certainly am.

    And I don’t see why that would confuse you.

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  14. Brad

    Oh, as for my statement that I “might” call Joel… You do know that I don’t get paid for the work I do on this blog, right? Have you not noticed that 99 percent or more of my commentary is based on reports published by entities that still employ reporters to go out and do legwork?

    I still might call Joel. But if I do, that will be something EXTRA, not blog business as usual.

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  15. Doug Ross

    Where did you express your agreement with Mia?

    You wrote:

    “Sounds like Rep. Garrick has a problem with delegation chairman Darrell Jackson, among others.”
    “I agree that it’s absurd that we are still waiting for satisfactory answers as to how this happened, and more importantly, how it will be avoided in the future.”

    What part of that suggests you think Mr. Jackson’s behavior is anything more than puzzling? This feels like one of those cases where Jackson is one of “your guys” so you will tread lightly on calling him out on his behavior. We already know Lourie is one of your favorites so he appears to be getting a full pass on his sudden “laryngitis” on this matter. Lourie’s biggest complaint appears to be that anyone would question the hiring process that put McBride in the position:

    “The most confrontational moment of the afternoon did not even involve McBride. It came when Sen. Joel Lourie (D-22) said he was “offended” by statements from Rep. Nathan Ballentine (R-71) that insinuated the hiring processes lacked transparency.”

    Has Lourie made any statement about McBride?

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  16. Brad

    In answer to Doug’s questions: I agreed with Mia, from the outset, in big type in the headline: “Garrick completely unsatisfied by hearing on Richland County voting debacle, and so am I.”

    I considered that sufficiently clear that I saw no reason to repeat myself when commenting on Bob’s FB statement praising Mia and John Courson; I merely added my agreement about Courson.

    The only statement I’ve seen from Joel was this response from him that Hunter Limbaugh (former GOP House member) posted on Facebook:

    “Thank you for your email and concern. The delegation met for 3 1/2 hours yesterday to get further information and clarification about all the problems that occurred on election day.

    “The Election Commission has hired attorney Steve Hamm, a well respected former state agency head, to complete a thorough audit of the procedures and processes involved. We expect a report within 30-60 days that will give us a full accounting of where the breakdowns occurred and an actionable plan for the future.

    “Regarding Ms. McBride, yesterday the Attorney General issued an opinion stating that the County Election Commission, not the delegation, is the sole authority to make any personnel changes. Regardless of who is running the department in the future, I am fully committed to restoring the public’s trust and confidence in the election process.

    “Best regards,
    “Joel”

    Which I did not find helpful.

    That was in response to this message from Hunter:

    “Senator: I am interested to know whether the Delegation takes the position that it has the authority to dismiss Ms. McBride, or whether it agrees with General Wilson’s answer to Sen. Scott’s inquiry? In any event, had you (or any other delegation member) hired Ms. McBride to run your GOTV operation only to find out that she didn’t rent enough vans, didn’t procure enough drivers for those she did rent, didn’t adequately staff the phone banks or make sure the phones even worked, she wouldn’t get a second chance. I’d hope that you will all treat the voters of Richland County no less seriously.

    “Thanks for your service, Hunter”

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  17. bud

    Doug, in our country a person is innocent until proven guilty. Brad is exercising caution by not jumping on Ms. McBride, Joel and the others too stridently at this point. Not sure what your beef is. Brad is by nature cautious in most political matters (going to war, not so much) so this fits with his personna.

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  18. Doug Ross

    I wasn’t suggesting you should call Joel Lourie. I said he should be speaking to his constituents without having to be called. He has been evasive and non-communicative on this matter.

    To suggest we need to wait 30-60 days to get a report on what happened is ludicrous. It shouldn’t take more than a couple hours to figure this out… unless you were trying to buy time to come up with an excuse.

    Hunter Limbaugh’s question nails it: had this been a private entity that failed this badly, a firing decision would have been made the next day… to think we citizens have to wait for a legal team to decide who can fire Ms. McBride or even if she can be fired is evidence enough of how little accountability exists in government.

    Don’t like how Joel Lourie responded to this issue? Why just wait another two years until he runs again and is unopposed and try and vote him out.

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  19. Doug Ross

    @bud

    I’ll try to remember Brad’s caution the next time Nikki Haley or a libertarian screws up.

    If Ms. McBride is innocent, she’s had plenty of time to present the evidence of that fact. She had all the time she needed on Monday to do so. So far all she’s done is blame a flunky in her office without providing any details (thanks to Senator Jackson).

    The reason Joel Lourie isn’t talking has nothing to do with trying to find out the facts. It’s about finding the best way to disentangle himself from accountability for putting McBride in her job.

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  20. Brad

    Thanks, Bud. You’re right about that. I generally applaud the decisiveness Mia and John are showing, while I can’t be 100 percent sure that that is what I would do in their places. I wasn’t at that hearing (which means I missed such things as what Kathryn just pointed out, that Ms. McBride says she is not related to Frank) and haven’t talked to all the players, so I can’t be positive.

    Based on what I’ve SEEN, I see no reason why Ms. McBride should keep her job. But I also know I haven’t seen everything.

    What is increasingly unacceptable to me is that so many people who should have sufficient information now are so indecisive.

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  21. Brad

    Also, since Doug likes to compare this to the private sector. I’m not a supervisor these days, but when I was a supervisor in the private sector — and I was for about 30 years — I wouldn’t have fired someone the day after the election.

    If I were in charge of that person, we’d be going through a discernment process right now, with the employee’s ongoing performance under a microscope. Every step along the way (such as how the employee reacted to the failure, the extent to which she took responsibility, and how she was making sure such a foul-up never happened again) would play into what we did eventually.

    Silence says above that “nobody will get fired.” About the only people I ever “fired” were people who I was forced to lay off — in which case the separation was as much against my will as theirs. But I got rid of a number of people — usually by resignation.

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  22. Brad

    Actually, I did fire ONE person once, and did so precipitously, based on a single incident. But it didn’t stick, because the publisher gave the person a job over in the advertising department.

    The publisher did that because he felt that what happened was partly his fault. And he was right; it was. But that didn’t change the fact that what the reporter had done made it impossible for me to keep him working in my newsroom.

    Long, complicated story, but suffice it to say that what he had done was highly damaging to the newspaper’s credibility in the community.

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  23. Brad

    I wrote the last four comments before seeing this comment by Doug.

    Doug, my attitude toward Nikki Haley is a perfect example of my patience. I was patient with her for years, even endorsing her twice, although toward the end of her House service I was more and more concerned about her. She had to run for governor — a job for which she was grossly unqualified — and do it as a Sarah Palin clone for me to reach the conclusion that we were better off without her in public life.

    Go back and see if you don’t believe me — there’s an extensive record on this blog and on my old one.

    And my deep, principled opposition to libertarianism is a position that has developed over decades. I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hey, libertarians, I don’t like the ties y’all are wearing; I’m against you.”

    So thanks for those examples.

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  24. Brad

    On a different subject, to respond to “PC in SC:”

    First, I’m opposed to no-excuse early voting in principle.

    And it CERTAINLY is not a substitute for a properly run election on Election Day. We’ve been having elections without this sort of problem since the republic was founded. These problems have to be fixed, whether there’s early voting or not. When voters show up on Election Day, they should find enough voting machines in working order that the lines should move at a reasonable pace.

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  25. Doug Ross

    So what you are saying is that after being patient with Nikki Haley and developing your opinions on libertarianism over the years, you now apply a different set of rules when responding to them versus other people. Shoot first, ask questions later.

    Oh, and the Apple senior executive responsible for the latest iPhone maps debacle was fired today… he probably had nothing to do with the app itself but was held accountable.

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  26. Brad

    PERFECT example, Doug! Thank you!

    How long did it take that Apple guy to get fired — a couple of months, right? Even though we knew it was a debacle on the first day the iPhone 5 was released?

    The only thing that makes it a bad example is if you’re right that he had nothing to do with the atrocious idea to try to replace Google Maps with proprietary software (the specifics of the app itself are less significant than that stupid strategic decision).

    If that’s the case, this is more like a public sector firing. In the public sector, you’re more likely to be sacrificed because of the way things LOOK. In the private sector, supervisors are freer to be fair, and to shield someone who may look bad, but did nothing wrong.

    The fact is that, unlike most private sector failures, this one was so spectacular as to make it a public issue, politicizing it to where a symbolic beheading might be necessary.

    Oh, and as to your first statement, “So what you are saying is that after being patient with Nikki Haley and developing your opinions on libertarianism over the years, you now apply a different set of rules when responding to them versus other people.”

    … nothing could be further from the truth. I criticize those people when they do something that demonstrates the problem that I have come to understand over the course of time.

    When they don’t do that, I’m slower to judge.

    For instance, it’s increasingly conventional wisdom that if Nikki is not re-elected, it will be because of this DOR hacking thing. Which to me is ridiculous, on its face. As I have said, I doubt a more engaged governor would have caught this problem either — it was too far down in the organization.

    Go back and see the neutral language I used about Nikki with regard to this.

    Now as time has gone by, she’s done some things that illustrate her faults — such as her categorical, absolute statements — and I’ve called her on that. But at the same time, I’ve gone out of my way to applaud that she just might be growing up a bit as a result of this crisis.

    Argue with what I say, Doug. Not what you want to imagine I say.

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  27. susanincola

    I don’t know if Ms McBride needs to be fired or not — I just don’t think she should be in charge of elections. As far as I know, she was doing a passable job in charge of voter registrations, so maybe she could go back to that position (with the appropriate pay adjustment, of course).

    (Oh, and I saw since my last comment that Steve Hamm has run a state agency, which I didn’t know — so he’s probably more than able to assess the situation).

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  28. Silence

    @Brad – not to go off topic, cause there’s plenty to discuss here, and certainly not to defend her job performance, but how was Nikki Haley unqualified to be Governor of SC? Read Article IV, Section 2 of our state’s constitution, conveniently titled “Qualifications of Governor”:

    1) Does she deny the existence of a supreme being? Nope.
    2) Had she attained the age of 30 years? Yup.
    3) US Citizen for five years? Yup.
    4) SC citizen and resident for five years? Yup.
    5) Is she holding another office or commission while being governor? Nope.

    Therefore she is qualified!

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  29. bud

    Brad, everyone’s idea of how they can best perform their civic duty are different. For you it’s something of an article of faith that voting on election day and election day only is the ultimate expression of doing one’s civic duty. For others it is expressed differntly. For many African-American folks it is the ultimate expression of civic duty to vote on the Sunday before election day. “Souls to the Polls” if you will. I would hate to deny someone their very personal way of doing what they wish in terms of voting simply because another person finds that offensive somehow. We all need to acknowledge the differences in our fellow citizens.

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  30. Barry

    what else is an elections director going to do that is going to pay her $85,000+ a year?

    She isn’t going to resign on her own.

    it’s not like her experience will earn her another job – except for inside state government somewhere “supervising” a group that doesn’t need to be supervised.

    I worked for a state agency for 6 years in South Carolina earlier this decade. I saw several instances of people removed from the field and put in an office and given a supervisor job title when they couldn’t not handle field work (too many complaints, not getting paperwork done in a timely manner).

    I know how this stuff works.

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  31. Barry

    btw – unless you are in a sales type job

    an $85,000 a year job in the private sector would normally require an advanced technical degree, several legit certifications, and very specific, and detailed technical experience over a long period of time managing a variety of complex projects.

    I wonder how her resume stacks up?

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  32. Doug Ross

    @BJ

    As a project manager on software projects, I have supervised (in total) probably hundreds of people over my 30 year IT career. My role has been a project manager so rather than hire/fire, I deal with releasing resources back into the pool if they are not effective. I’ve had to do that several times… some of those I released eventually were laid off due to a track record of below standard performance.

    How about you, Mr. Anonymous Public Servant? How many people have YOU fired for not doing their jobs?

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  33. Doug Ross

    @Barry

    You’ve got it right. In the public sector, you don’t get fired, you get promoted. Competence is rarely factored into the decision. In the case of Ms. McBride, her gender and race work in her favor… nevermind whatever other patronage was involved in the decision to put her in a job she was obviously unqualified to hold.

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  34. Brad

    Doug and Barry, y’all just keep thinking that. You will anyway, I guess, whatever I say. This is like religious differences.

    All I’ll say is that there’s no bad thing that y’all cite in the public sector that I haven’t seen in the private. And in the private, you’re far, far less likely to hear about it if you’re outside the organization. That’s the main difference between these two types of organizations, which are all run by fallible human beings.

    Putting our differences aside… if I understand Doug’s explanation correctly (“releasing resources back into the pool”)… it’s similar to my own experience over the years. I tended to supervise teams that demanded a lot from people under high pressure (the state political beats, the editorial board), and if you weren’t of above-average skills and performance, you didn’t get on those teams to begin with. But sometimes, while being above-average, some team members weren’t quite a good fit where they were, and it was arranged for them to work elsewhere at the paper — usually quite successfully.

    That was FAR more common than firing…

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  35. Doug Ross

    @Brad

    No, the people I released from teams were below average. Attitude, skill set, performance, not being reliable. If someone had a good attitude and decent skills, I would try to find work that fits those skills. One guy I recall only ever wanted to talk about what we should do and never actually did anything. After three weeks, I told him we didn’t need him. This was at least his third strike and he was let go shortly after. Ten years later, he ends up on a project my son is working on in Florida currently… and my son tells me the attitude is still the same… and the guy is released from that project three weeks early and they keep my son on the project three weeks longer than planned.

    There are some people out there who just are lousy workers and they get what they deserve.

    I’d be interested in hearing about the people you know who have been fired for incompetence in the public sector. It certainly doesn’t happen in public education. They just move teachers around and move admin staff around. My wife has seen that firsthand for 15 years.

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  36. Steven Davis II

    Brad – How often do people in the public sector get fired compared to those in the private sector? It’s been three weeks and McBride stayed hidden from the taxpayers who pay her salary. You screw up in the private sector and try to hide from the person paying your salary you find your stuff sitting next to the dumpster when they get tired of looking for you.

    You’d be surprised at the number of large companies where skilled and unskilled labor is involved where there is a monthly firing of the bottom 10%. That’s how most of the shipping companies work, you sit at the bottom for two or three months, you’re out the door. I know call centers who have the same policy.

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  37. tavis micklash

    Doug said,

    ” In the case of Ms. McBride, her gender and race work in her favor… nevermind whatever other patronage was involved in the decision to put her in a job she was obviously unqualified to hold.”

    I don’t think its fair to make this a race and gender issue.

    I do think that political connections played a far greater role though. Seeing the extent that members of the committee have gone to shield her is only giving credence to to this.

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  38. Silence

    @BJ – The most people I’ve supervised at one time was 10, including full and part timers. I’ve hired or been part of a committee hiring upwards of 30 people over my career, thus far. I have fired 3 people, and had a lot resign to go on to bigger or better things. I do a pretty good job of hiring, so I haven’t needed to get rid of many folks.

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  39. Silence

    Tavis – you are correct that political patronage allowed Ms. McBride to rise beyond her level of competence. However, I also think that it was fair of Doug to bring up the race issue, since that’s possibly one factor in her earning her patronage.

    I would be interested to see her resume though.

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  40. Doug Ross

    @Tavis

    “I don’t think its fair to make this a race and gender issue.”

    I’m not making it an issue. I am stating a fact. A person’s race and gender are factors in the hiring decision according to EEO policies. In this case, a black woman replaced a white male in that position for no obvious reason. We don’t know what her qualifications were but we do not what her performance has been.

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  41. Kathryn Fenner

    I think it is harder to be sure how incompetent a teacher is than it is someone who does not work in a classroom unsupervised.

    Columbia whacked a bunch of high level employees circa Wanda Dunn, and she sued, and if I am correct, lost. Tony Lawton no longer works for the city, either.

    One thought: police records clerks make less than $25 K. I found that shocking. What level of incompetence do you set for a job that pays so little?

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  42. Mark Stewart

    But Doug, I would have thought that you would have been opposed to someone occupying a single government position for 40 years. Especially one such as the director of voting – where an on-the-job sabbatical is probably a reality at least 40% of the time through the years.

    Patronage was the only reason McBride was hired. Beyond that, it matters far less – except as to whom supported her rise (I don’t even care about the why).

    Reply
  43. BJ

    Brad, thanks for your experienced observation of employees and your mature leadership for those who weren’t matched with the jobs into which they were initially hired or selected. You make a great example of mature and effective leadership that tries to save the investment in personnel without incurring separation expense and additional hiring and training costs, in addition to negatively effecting the morale of others in the organization. Also, you demonstrated that employees deserve an effective manager and they make real contributions when they’re matched with the right responsibilities. They are more committed to the objectives of the organization and make it more profitable even in public employment much to the derision of many.

    … I make those observations based on over 40 years of corporate managerial experience in a Fortune 100 company and an additional couple of years as a corporate consultant for the same company. Having been very fortunate for having many different management assignments, I enjoyed some 7 years engaged in management recruiting, staffing and interviewing over 3,500 pre-qualified potential hires and later hiring those with the motivation and proper skills. Also, during that tour I was an assessor of “managers of other managers” during a week-long assessment center technique with structured behavioral situations using research proven dimensions to determine if those individuals had the leadership potential to perform effectively as a 3rd level manager….

    When an employee fails it’s usually the lack of proper job design, a manager with poor leadership skills or the improper matching of interests & skills of employees to the right positions. I have really never known an individual who started their work day wanting to screw up or with the attitude that they didn’t want to be successful at a meaningful job. Seems like some stilted attitudes are generational…

    Your ability to put your thoughts into provocative posts seems to “get to” some individuals as it seems their hot spots are touched! I may be “anonymous” and that irks some, but “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” as a future US Senator used to say.

    Thanks for your thoughtful posts and your blogging efforts.

    Reply
  44. Barry

    Brad

    I’ve seen people fired in the private sector for all sorts of reasons- and some that probably should have been fired.

    I’ve seen people promoted that didn’t deserve it.

    But when I worked in state government in SC earlier in this decade, it was amazing to me to see people that couldn’t do their job in the field get promoted.

    The folks in our office actually joked about it that the only way we would get a promotion was to screw up in the field.

    In the private sector there is a fear you can get fired. In state government- it was rare for me to ever see someone fired for any reason.

    I can’t lie about it. It was what it was. Has that changed? I don’t know. I can only speak about what I saw in 6 years earlier this decade right here in Columbia.

    Reply
  45. Kathryn Fenner

    But Barry, what about the CEOs of famously poorly
    performing companies who get huge bonuses? Hostess the most recent in a long line! Bailout recipients, too!

    Reply
  46. Silence

    Kathryn – Police Officer Candidates make $30k, and certified officers with a year of experience make 34k, so 25k and NOT getting shot at doesn’t sound so bad.

    My first “real job” post college in 1997 paid me $20k+bennies, and I had an undergraduate degree and 3 years part-time in the industry. I don’t think 25k is too bad, and we should NEVER expect incompetence from employees – regardless of the pay rate.

    Reply
  47. Brad

    My first “real job” out of college, doing what I’d trained for, paid $6,760 a year. Or, as I thought of it, $130 a week. Plus benefits. (GOOD benefits, the kind we used to have — health insurance that cost almost nothing and covered almost everything.)

    Which, considering that was 1975, is almost exactly the same amount that Silence was paid in 1997, adjusted for inflation.

    Actually, though, there was no full calendar year in which I made $6,760, as I got a $15 a week raise after only a few weeks.

    It’s funny to remember what a big boost that felt like. When my boss told me about it, I asked incredulously, “A WEEK?” (As opposed to $15 a month.) And well I might have felt that way. After all, it was an 11.5-percent raise.

    Reply
  48. Brad

    Sometime after that, my boss at the time said something to me to the effect that one great thing about having good people who are low-paid is that you get the “fun” of giving them raises whenever they do something good, without busting the budget.

    That was another time, in another universe…

    Reply
  49. Doug Ross

    From today’s The State where we learn that McBride has bumped her salary up 7 times since 2008 from 51K to 89K (including a jump from 66K to 85K the day after replacing Mr. Cinnamon who was making mid 60’s):

    “Since adding Cinnamon’s responsibilities, McBride has hired two employees paid salaries in the mid- or high-$60,000 range, according to information released by state and county government under the paper’s open records request.

    They are:

    • Garry Baum, McBride’s deputy director. McBride hired Baum in July 2011 for $66,500. Baum now earns $68,630. When he left the State Election Commission, where he had worked some 18 years, Baum earned $55,287.

    Baum is the brother-in-law of state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, one of the members of the Richland County legislative delegation that hired McBride. In an interview, Lourie said he did not “in any way” influence the hiring of Baum.

    Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/11/30/2537991/richland-county-elec-chief-paid.html#storylink=cpy

    So they added two $60K jobs that hadn’t been necessary before to run elections and one of those jobs turns out to be a the brother-in-law of one of the people who put McBride in HER job… and that brother-in-law gets a $13K (20+% raise)?

    What exactly does Ms. McBride do now that she has two additional people assisting her?

    This is corruption, pure and simple.

    Reply
  50. Brad

    That’s not “corruption.” It’s bad management on the part of those who signed off on it, and a good illustration of what can happen in these weird situations where there are no lines of political accountability. Which is why we need to do away with these arrangements (such as the 500 Special Purpose Districts) in SC.

    But you know what? I wouldn’t worry about it all that much if they did an awesome job of running elections. But they fouled up royally, and that’s what makes running up that payroll scandalous.

    The outrage here is that taxpayers not only didn’t get anything for the additional money, but found themselves far worse off.

    Reply
  51. Doug Ross

    So the Lourie – brother-in-law connection was just a coincidence? I’d like to see who was interviewed for those new positions.

    Reply
  52. Steven Davis II

    It’s “corruption” when you hire people based on who they know rather than what they know. It’s also corruption when a director does the person who hired her a favor by hiring one of his family members.

    It’s interesting that the same people blasting the corruption and cronyism in Lexington County turn 180 degrees when they see it happening in Richland County. Then it’s just bad management.

    Were any of these public offices advertised publically (county website, newspaper, etc.). Or were they just advertised by word of mouth through a select few channels?

    Reply
  53. Bob Amundson

    Glad to be back due to your new civility policy, Brad.

    Process, not people, to paraphrase Deming, the father of “process improvement” and plan, do, check, act. Jack Green, past CEO of GE, in his book stated personnel are the problem 10% of the time. Both of course were in the private sector, but it is important for a public administrator to understand these lessons.

    The 10% is low in public administration because of the inability to fire “at will.” There is a long history I could explain in discussing why that is (e.g., President Garfield’s assassination from an unhappy patronage job seeker in 1881), but, it is a reaction to public administration in U.S. history at times being nearly totally driven by political patronage. To combat the many problems due to the Patronage System (as in this situation), the Merit System became a large part of public administration hiring and promotion. The balance between the two systems is always in flux, but it is important to understand both.

    Those hired on merits rather than political connections generally have a probationary period where the employee can be fired without cause. However, once that probationary period has ended, you need cause to fire a public employee. That has proven difficult at times during my career as a senior public administrator, most often because of low level managers doing a poor job of documenting performance problems in annual performance reviews. It’s frustrating to think of all the times I was asked to fire a merit employee due to performance, but when I asked for their performance reviews, the employee appeared nearly perfect.

    Public Administrators are very aware of this problem, but the answer is not easily addressed. There was a time when most government employees were “the best and the brightest,” but that is not as true as 40 years ago. However, there are still many merit employees throughout government that chose their career path much as Brad did; money was less of a concern than service.

    Situations like this give all public employees a bad name. I am a strong believer that the Merit System is more effective than the Patronage System, but neither is perfect. In circling back to Deming, it is process, not people. And if you all want a better process, appreciate your public servants rather than bash them. You’ll have more of the best and the brightest running government agencies (as difficult as that can be in a system of checks and balances), protecting us, and teaching our children.

    Reply
  54. Silence

    @Brad – aside from the ridiculous special purpose districts, which are a taxpayer disaster, there’s another issue here that really needs a lot more daylight and disinfectant.

    There’s an ENORMOUS culture of nepotism in our government. It’s probably everywhere, but I’ve seen it and noticed it since I’ve been in Columbia, SC. I’m also sure that it’s pervasive in both parties, but tends to be more visible in the party in power.

    I’ll provide some anecdotal examples:
    Congressman Jim Clyburn & FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Prior to her FCC gig she did 10 years as an appointed public service commissioner in SC, making 90k annually. I think prior to that she ran a weekly newspaper.

    Joel Lourie and Garry Baum, as mentioned in today’s paper.

    The John Courson scandal – with his sister-in-law (70k reporting directly to John) and son (USC) both holding state jobs.

    Michael Haley’s “Chief Diversity Officer” job with the SCARNG.

    The whole transportation consulting deal with Senator Scott and Anderson City (or maybe county).

    I was personally directed to hire the son of our state’s comptroller when I worked for a state agency. Being a team player (and needing a paycheck), I attempted to, but he never called me back to set up an interview. A few weeks later when the HR folks asked me why they hadn’t seen paperwork on him, I told them that he’d never called me back. They said “His Daddy will be very interested to hear that.” and that was the last I ever heard of it, thankfully.

    I’m sure some of the other regulars here can provide other examples. This is why it’s good sometimes to be “anonymous”.

    Reply
  55. Brad

    Doug, the choice isn’t between “coincidence” and “corruption.” There are a whole lot of other degrees between those two.

    You’ll find that while many, many people find the mere existence of a familial connection as PROOF, and all the proof they need, that someone got a job for something other than merit, I generally consider that to be insufficient evidence, especially in a small state like South Carolina, where any SC native who goes to work for the government is likely to be related to SOMEBODY in power.

    I’m not sure that there’s anyone in the Legislature right now to whom I can easily trace kinship (although a real study of family trees would almost certainly yield connections), but former lawmaker Moffatt Burriss is a distant cousin, as was Bradley Morrah, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate who lost to Strom Thurmond in 1966.

    I can think of several relatives in state and federal employ here in the Midlands. And a former superintendent of Lexington/Richland School District 5, the late TEC Dowling, was a cousin.

    So yeah, when you hear that a brother-in-law of a member of the legislative delegation has a job working for someone appointed by the delegation, it makes you want to look more closely at the situation to see if you can determine whether there was untoward influence in his hiring. (So it’s appropriate for Doug to say, “I’d like to see who was interviewed for those new positions.”)

    But it doesn’t prove that there WAS. Big difference.

    Reply
  56. Doug Ross

    Want to bet that the next release of information on the Richland County election fiasco occurs somewhere between Decemeber 21 and January 1?

    My guess is the Friday before Christmas. The thinking is probably if they can stonewall until the new year, the general public will lose interest.

    Reply
  57. Doug Ross

    The key points in the Lourie situation are the relationship between Lourie and Jackson, the relationship between Jackson and McBride and the timing of the hiring of the brother-in-law.

    My hunch is that everyone involved look at the election positions as “below-the-radar” slots that nobody would ever bother to ask questions about unless someone “fouled up royally” as you described it. It’s hard to picture what a quarter million dollars of salary for these three people gets the citizens of the county considering the limited scope of the job requirements. I bet there’s a whole lot of solitaire and web surfing going on down there… assuming they show up every day.

    Reply
  58. Kathryn Fenner

    Baum seemed to have better qualifications, as recited in The State, than McBride. Extensive relevant experience.

    Reply
  59. Doug Ross

    @Kathryn

    Why were the two positions created? Why did they deserve a 20% raise? Who applied for the jobs?

    I think we should install video cameras in the election offices so we can watch what they do to earn all that money.

    Reply
  60. Brad

    All good questions. But the ones that matter to me are “Why were the two positions created? Why did they deserve a 20% raise?” and “What do they do all day to earn that money?”

    The “who” interests me less. If they did a lousy job (which they did), it doesn’t matter who they are. If they did a GREAT job, I wouldn’t care if every employee in that office was a close relative of a delegation member.

    A lot of people in our community seemed to think the problem was that Ms. McBride was related to Frank. Turns out she isn’t (unless we were lied to about that at the hearing). But not being related to Frank McBride doesn’t make her a better elections director.

    It’s the horrible job she did, not who she’s related to, that matters.

    Reply
  61. Brad

    This is something I always have trouble explaining, but I’ll try again…

    In our discussions of public ethics in this society, we tend to inflate APPEARANCES to the point that we act as though they are SUBSTANCE.

    The fact that someone in an important or lucrative public office is related to someone in power is not in itself the problem, but an INDICATOR that a situation would bear more scrutiny. It creates the appearance that something MAY be wrong.

    In this case we have something really, truly, seriously, undeniably WRONG — a major, major failure of a fundamental governmental function. We are way, way past superficial appearance indicators.

    Getting worked up because someone is a senator’s brother in law at this stage is sort of like making a big deal of telling someone with Stage 4 cancer than they are exhibiting one of the warning signs of that kind of cancer.

    Actually, that’s not a good analogy, because the presence of apparent nepotism isn’t necessarily an indicator that a job won’t be done well (although it CAN be, if it turns out the individual was entirely unqualified). But I hope you see what I’m trying to say.

    Reply
  62. Brad

    It’s like I never thought Nikki Haley’s daughter having a state job within a Cabinet agency was a scandal (the scandal was the way the governor had a childish fit over routine attempts to report the fact).

    It was something that news media had an obligation to report, as many readers would see that as a situation that bore watching to make sure it WASN’T something inappropriate. Had the governor acted normally about it, it would have been a by-the-way kind of incidental story.

    The problem wasn’t the girl having the job; the problem was going to the mattresses trying to hide the fact.

    Reply
  63. Doug Ross

    But isn’t the question really whether Joel Lourie’s brother-in-law, who may be competent at the job, was given special consideration. It’s very unlikely that he alone was the only person who could have done that job well. It’s not like he was a brain surgeon or airline pilot.

    In these cases, the ethical thing to do would be for Mr. Lourie to not even be on the committee in the first place. Or to VOLUNTEER the fact that his brother in law was hired when it happened so quickly after the McBride appointment. There are ways to handle nepotism that reduce the appearance of impropriety. Doesn’t appear that anything of that sort was done beforehand.

    Reply
  64. Brad

    You may be right. I wasn’t paying attention to the election commission before this fiasco, so I don’t know how that unfolded.

    It is indeed a relevant question to ask, as you say, “whether Joel Lourie’s brother-in-law… was given special consideration.” But I don’t think it’s THE question of the moment.

    What we need to do now is get a complete understanding of what went wrong, and mostly likely get rid of the people whose fault it is. And then we have to recognize that we still haven’t solved the problem just because one or more people are gone.

    This entire setup seems to have been fouled up from the get-go, ever since the two entities were merged and Cinnamon left. The entire arrangement needs to be rethought and reformed — and part of what we need going forward are clear lines of accountability.

    Reply
  65. Kathryn Fenner

    Heck, my best jobs were through someone I knew. One I sat on a board with an associate at the firm, one when a friend said he wasn’t interested but suggested me, one was through the wife of our neighborhood president. All were private sector. They were better fits than the two I got through a wide screening process.

    The children of lawyers have an easier time landing law jobs. This isn’t necessarily nepotism. They know how to play the game and are probably going to be easier to deal with than random lawyers. They likely have the contacts to drum up business. They probably did better in law school, since they were less blindsided by it. Etc.

    Reply
  66. Silence

    Kathryn – I’ve also gotten a lot of jobs based on social or business connections. The difference is that they weren’t governmental jobs. If someone likes me and thinks I’ll do a good job working for them and wants to hire me with their OWN money, that’s one thing. If they like me, or owe a favor to someone and want to hire me using TAXPAYER’S money, that’s a horse of a different color entirely.

    Reply
  67. Doug Ross

    If government employee A appoints government employee B and employee B hires government employee C who has a close personal relationship to A, then there must be complete transparency in the hiring of C.

    An ethical person in A’s position would make every attempt beforehand to eliminate any possible charge of nepotism or favoritism.

    Reply
  68. Kathryn Fenner

    Not any possible charge, any credible one. Just because you are related to someone, you still have the same right to a state job as a one else similarly qualified.

    Agreed on transparency, though.

    Reply
  69. Mark Stewart

    So now it appears that James Smith has staked out a position on the fall out – and it is one he probably wishes he had not spoken. Did he really just come out and say anyone who has information about poll-workers’ concerns about pre-election preparedness ought to contact their delegation member and report it? I was surprised to see The State reporting that this morning.

    There is a children’s fable about that sort of situation. To me, Rep. Smith did himself, and his constituents, no favors with that statement. This is far more than legislator’s governoring, this is clearly more about foxes and henhouses.

    Reply
  70. Silence

    I agree that there’s a difference between taking someone well qualified and taking someone’s mystery relative. Let them all compete through a fair and open process – there’s a reason that all of the public jobs that pay over 50k are supposed to be public record. It’s to stop the kind of nepotism that happens around here.

    Reply
  71. Silence

    @ Pat – I agree. I think that there’s enough questions about the integrity of the election that we shouldn’t be beholden to a billion dollar tax increase that may or may not have been approved by a majority of the voters.

    Reply
  72. Mark Stewart

    Silence,

    I would think that proof of a thrown election would first be required to initiate a revote.

    When Kirkman wins in the same election – in a huge come from out of nowhere fashion after counting the early voting, that would indicate that this wasn’t a rigged election. If the transit tax had even been remotely close, that might be something to run some statistical analyses against. But it wasn’t.

    I would hope that that USC mathematics professor remains an independent voice. I would like to continue to trust someone in this debacle.

    Reply
  73. Doug Ross

    @Mark

    The transportation tax won only because of absentee ballots. The votes on election day came out against the tax.

    Aside from the election day debacle, I have serious doubts about the integrity of the absentee ballot process. There are specific requirements to vote absentee and I am doubtful that all those who did so met the requirements.

    Reply
  74. Kathryn Fenner

    Duncan Buell is a computer science professor, colleague of my husband. He is a really good guy, and not likely to give up!

    Reply
  75. Libb

    I understand that Ms McBride is related to Frank McBride by marriage. If true, then Sen Jackson, and probably most of the legislative delegation, knew this. If true, then her answer of “No” is not exactly the whole truth and, yet, no one on the legislative committee (even Mia) made an attempt to get a truthier answer. While this was certainly not the most pressing issue of the day it was one of the first questions asked. Not an auspicious start for a process that’s supposed to restore the public’s trust and confidence.

    Reply
  76. Silence

    @ Mark,
    I’m not saying that there’s enough proof to warrant a revote. What I am saying is that there’s enough fishy here, and enough unanswered questions that the integrity of the process, and hence of the outcome is in doubt. It’s not right to saddle ourselves with 20 years and a billion dollars in taxes based on a poorly run and questionable election.

    Reply
  77. Doug Ross

    @Kathryn

    I thought I read that she wasn’t under oath at the hearing?

    I can see what Libb is saying. Someone who wanted to be evasive could claim that she thought “related” meant by through relatives.

    Am I “related” to my wife’s sister’s husband’s brother? I might answer NO to that question if I wanted to put some distance between us or I might answer YES if that guy won the Powerball.

    Reply
  78. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Bet she was. They swear everyone in at public meetings these days. For what it’s worth, though…

    Reply
  79. tavis micklash

    “It’s not right to saddle ourselves with 20 years and a billion dollars in taxes based on a poorly run and questionable election.”

    Yet it is happening. Michaels protest was denied.

    I disagree with his decision to pursue the protest, but I respect what he was trying to do.

    I think a lot was to put the people that were in charge of the debacle on the stand and hold them accountable to some extent.

    Reply
  80. Doug Ross

    I think what is probably going on behind the scenes is an attempt to find Ms. McBride some other job before she is let go from her current position.

    Think about it – who in their right mind would hire her now for $89K? or even $50K? She was probably thinking she was going to coast to retirement in 10 years with a nice pension.

    Reply
  81. Mark Stewart

    Doug,

    That was my point. Kirkman was down slightly on election day, but nearly had a clean sweep of the absentee ballots.

    One would not normally assume that Kirkman and the Penny Tax would clean up on the same absentee ballots. If someone where going to throw the absentee ballot results – which was thrown? More likely, what happened is reality: The absentee voters voted for Kirkman AND for the transportation tax. It could just be that the early voters were voting for the long-term good of the area and wanted both Kirkman’s fiscal rationalism in the legislature and proper long term transportation funding for the county. I fail to see signs of a fix here. On the other hand, I see nothing but incompetence and bald patronage within the structure of the elections commission.

    Reply
  82. tavis micklash

    @doug

    If I was McBride I’d being doing just that. Try to delay as much as possible and hit up Jackson for some other position.

    I’d have no objection to her taking an appropriate pay cut and doing JUST registrations since that’s what her background is in.

    Reply
  83. tavis micklash

    “One would not normally assume that Kirkman and the Penny Tax would clean up on the same absentee ballots”

    Kirkman was not on all of the ballots for Richland county. Only a part. So I’d argue thats more a victory for Kirkman’s GOTV absentee drive. Much like the Obama campaign focuses on early voting.

    Reply
  84. Doug Ross

    And now we get this… another well-connected guy getting appointed to a $146K a year bureaucratic job.

    http://www.thestate.com/2012/12/03/2542955/retired-house-chairman-gets-new.html#.UL2CCIbk32s

    “As code commissioner, Harrison must merge newly approved laws into the state code. He also leads the Legislative Council and its 32 employees who research and draft requested bills.

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin says state law doesn’t require the council to post the job opening.”

    Of course it doesn’t, Larry… we wouldn’t want “regular” citizens to compete for cushy jobs…

    This is why we need term limits. We don’t need powerful legislators, we need ethical legislators. It’s not a hard job to figure out…

    Reply
  85. Pat

    Fix or incompetence – there were enough disenfranchised voters/would be voters that the integrity of the outcome is in question.

    Reply
  86. Mark Stewart

    Doug,

    Of all the places where one would want an experienced legislator and attorney, code commissioner would seem to be it.

    The real problem is that the legislature keeps making this a tough position to hold – by passing Ill-considered laws that often forget that things don’t often go as planned (or laws just designed for a single twisted purpose). It would probably be better to have a corporate attorney in this position – a good one – but then this would be a serious pay cut for them. And in the end, knowing one’s way around the state house would still be 2/3’s of the job.

    Reply
  87. Steven Davis II

    Why do we have a staff of 32 people who do nothing but research and draft bills?

    I wonder how this compares to other similar sized states? Some states can meet once every two years and SC has to meet twice a year every year to complete one budget.

    Reply
  88. Silence

    @ Pat – I think that the willful violation of state voting law (required # of machines/precinct) coupled with all of the “extra” votes that keep turning up, and the unanswered questions about all of the issues should be enough to vacate the results.
    Throw in a federal civil rights issue on top of that.

    Reply
  89. Brad

    Doug, the main question on the Harrison appointment is whether the position is, as Larry Martin says, a political appointment or not. That should be verifiable. That would determine whether it should have been advertised.

    Of course, there’s little doubt in my mind that the former chair of the House Judiciary is qualified for such an appointment. (In that capacity, he was one of the five members of the council.)

    Had there been a competitive process, I’d be surprised if the members of that committee had found someone else better suited to the job.

    Reply
  90. Brad

    This gets us into an area that has always seemed problematic for me — so often our discussions of “ethics” have to do with how something LOOKS, rather than whether a good or bad thing was done.

    In other words, the question becomes not whether the wrong thing was done, but whether it might LOOK like maybe the wrong thing COULD have been done, to a skeptical observer (and I know no more skeptical observer than Doug).

    Most of the energy spent on being “ethical” in public life seems to be about the appearances, rather than morality. I sometimes wonder how much money and inefficiency that costs us.

    It’s the Tylenol bottle phenomenon. Because one guy poisoned some Tylenol, we all have to spend more effort opening the bottles. Because a tiny minority of people would cheat if you didn’t require them to do things in the open, all the honest people have to jump through extra hoops.

    Reply
  91. Mark Stewart

    Kind of like all the car bomb barriers we place in every conceivable place across the country; because no one is willing to be “wrong” and say no, not there.

    Reply
  92. Doug Ross

    Did the job of “code commissioner” exist prior to Mr. Harrison’s appointment? The article didn;t mention who he replaced. If it’s a new position, once again, it doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    Following on to what SDII said, if we need 32 people to handle all the laws, then that’s the real problem. Is it not obvious that these people do nothing but push papers around and create a confusing mess of documents that serve little purpose? It’s pure bureaucratic overhead.

    Reply
  93. Brad

    Doug, the later, full version of the story you cite says: “Harrison replaces Stephen Draffin, who retired after 14 years as code commissioner.

    Those folks stay pretty busy, to the best of my knowledge, keeping up with the legislative activity of 170 lawmakers, and all the different version bills go through, and all the changes a passed law makes to the code. SOMEBODY has to know how to write a law so that it has the intended effect; most lawmakers don’t know how to.

    That’s my IMPRESSION. I have no idea what a time-and-motion study would tell you.

    Reply
  94. Silence

    @ Kathryn – A redo makes my sacrifice worthless too – I was out of the country (for work) on election day, so I had to take off time from work, unpaid, to go to the county and vote absentee.

    I know that people in my precinct had to wait upwards of two hours to vote – many people might have had other obligations that could not be deferred or ignored. A person who couldn’t be late for their shift, or a parent needing to pick a child up from school or daycare, that type of thing. If you didn’t expect that voting would take 3 hours, you would not have made alternative arrangements in advance. To my knowledge, voting has never taken that long here before, so it wasn’t expected and could not have been reasonably planned for by the lay electorate.

    I don’t know what the appropriate solution is, but I know that there’s enough fishy about this election that it shouldn’t cost us a BILLION dollars.

    @ Doug & Brad – There’s a lot of screwy appointed state jobs like the code commissioner one, and they all pay pretty well. Must be nice.

    Reply
  95. Kathryn Fenner

    As someone who has drafted and interpreted laws, it does take skill and experience to write them properly. Extra sets of eyes can really help spot ambiguities.

    If you don’t have time to do it right to begin with, are you going to have the time to fix the mess created later? Penny wise and pound foolish to stint on statute drafting and review.

    Reply
  96. Doug Ross

    “SOMEBODY has to know how to write a law so that it has the intended effect; most lawmakers don’t know how to.”

    You mean after 30+ years in the State House, the main guys who run this state still don’t know how to do it? I thought that was one of the disadvantages of term limits – that you lose all that institutional knowledge.

    I’d just like to be able to spend one week monitoring the work this group does. I have no doubt that there’s a lot of processes for the sake of processes…

    We should start with trying to eliminate as many laws as possible. Maybe there should be a law that says any new law must be balanced out by replacing two other laws… keep doing that until we get down to the Ten Commandments. The complexity of the laws makes life worse, not better… especially the tax code. The tax code for individuals should fit on a sheet of paper.

    I imagine this staff also spends time writing and rewriting things like bills to name the fire ant the state pest.

    Reply
  97. Beth

    @anyone: Wasn’t there recently some revelation that legislating a law for a specific county is a no no? I may have dreamed it.

    Reply
  98. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, Beth, it is in the state constitution, but it is largely ignored in this legislatively dominated state. The State has written extensively on it recently.

    Reply
  99. Michael Rodgers

    Beth,
    You should read Cindi Ross Scoppe and the editorial page over at The State, if you are not already doing so. There has been a lot there lately. And today, they’ve got both an editorial and a Warren Bolton column (steak and steak, is what Brad calls it, I think) about home rule.
    Even though Brad’s not at The State anymore, the editorial editors are still banging the drum for improving the structure of our state government. They even print some nice letters about it from time to time, such as my recent letter in which I recommended that they employ the subsidiarity principle for determining the appropriate level of government for overseeing statewide and multi-county positions (spoiler alert: state, not county).
    Regards,
    Mike

    Reply
  100. Scout


    “SOMEBODY has to know how to write a law so that it has the intended effect; most lawmakers don’t know how to.”

    You mean after 30+ years in the State House, the main guys who run this state still don’t know how to do it? I thought that was one of the disadvantages of term limits – that you lose all that institutional knowledge.”

    @Doug, Is there anything in place to train lawmakers how to write an effective law? Some skills do not come without training no matter how long you attempt to do them. You can just continue to do it badly. Might it not make more sense to have a nonpartisan lawyer or linguist on staff who lawmakers could go to for help with wording and drafting to make sure laws have the intended effect as drafted? Maybe there is such a thing already. I have no idea.

    Reply
  101. Doug Ross

    @Scout

    So what skills does a multi-decade serving legislator acquire in that time that makes them so much more valuable than just a regular person with reasonable intelligence?

    Our government is run by the long term legislators and no one else. What we have is a result of their efforts.

    Reply
  102. bud

    Michael, while I appreciate the theoretical benefits of improving South Carolina government’s operational structuring to make everyone more accountable and operations run more efficiently I believe it is a mistake to be strident in implementing change. The problem that occurred the last time state government was restructured (1992) was that it actually created 3 very inefficient agencies out of one reasonably efficient one. Worse still, one of those agencies was something of a rougue entity.

    What made that round of restructuring doubly bad was that The State, and other news agencies, were so heavily invested in “restructuring” that they were unwilling and/or unable to discern that the changes were so horrible. So while it may be a good thing to do some government restructuring let’s not be so zealous in supporting restructuring that we simply ignore any shortcomings that may result.

    Reply
  103. Mark Stewart

    This is less a case of a poorly written law and more about this inherited system that would give county-wide power to one politician elected from only a small portion of the overall county to make decisions (personnel, policy and legislative) that impact everyone in the county.

    A “delegation” is not a formal rule-making or implementing entity, it is simply a collection of horse-traders. At least until the balance of power becomes so distorted that all that is left is a Boss Hogg and a bunch of disempowered hangers-on. That’s the classic problem of unaccountability.

    It’s one thing to have the leaders of a Senate or a General Assembly accrue power within their chamber. That’s the legislative system. However, having one State Senator out of four wield institutional power in Richland County is nothing more than corrupt patronage.

    What’s worse is that this approach has probably survived in all the counties. The perpetuation of this corruption is yet another example of South Carolina not being able to get out of it’s own way. To want to change SC for the better means standing up to these petty tyrannies. It isn’t about whether politicians hold powerful positions; it is about ensuring that there is a structure in place that legitimately conveys that power in a transparent, accountable way.

    Reply

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