Governor appears unlikely to remove DPS director after critical report

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It appears Gov. Henry McMaster will not be removing Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, despite a legislative oversight report criticizing his leadership of the agency. The House Legislative Oversight Subcommittee issued its report last Friday, saying Smith has mismanaged the agency.

“This mismanagement has resulted in a downward spiral of morale among agency employees, decreased overall agency performance and increased risk of harm to all those who travel the roads of South Carolina. We firmly believe major changes are needed in management personnel and agency policy to reverse this downward spiral,” subcommittee members wrote in the report.

But Gov. McMaster’s spokesman, Brian Symmes, said Monday in a written statement, “The governor appreciates the committee’s recommendations and its hard work on this report. As is the case with any legislative report, our office will thoroughly review the recommendations with Director Smith.”

Director Smith said in a written statement, “The SC Department of Public Safety worked closely with subcommittee members to provide requested information and resources that enabled it to thoroughly study the programs, policies and procedures of our department. We have reviewed the final report, including the oversight subcommittee’s recommendations released Friday, April 21. We appreciate the oversight subcommittee’s input because it is our common goal to make South Carolina a safer place to live, work and raise a family.”

The report says that, from 2013 to 2016, the number of tickets and warnings state troopers have written has gone down by more than 164,000, while during that same time fatal wrecks went up almost 31 percent and the number of people killed went up by more than 32 percent.

But it says money is not the issue. The legislature has provided enough money for the Highway Patrol to hire more troopers, but after current ones have left or retired, the Patrol has a total of only two additional troopers. Smith can’t say how much the agency has spent on hiring and training new troopers.

Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, one of the members of the subcommittee, says, “When we requested to know exactly how much he had spent, he said anywhere between 11 and 21 million dollars. He couldn’t even give us an exact figure. And out of that $21 million that, according to his own words that he may have spent on this, he retained exactly two new troopers. I mean, it is a dismal situation over there and one that the governor has been alerted to and he has not done anything about it. And, again, our roads are unsafe; everybody knows it. The governor’s partially responsible for our roads not being fixed, and now we have a DPS director that is asleep at the wheel. Somebody’s got to do something.”

House members wants Smith replaced so they took his salary out of next year’s state budget, but the Senate put it back in. The final budget has not been approved.

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