These must have been the worst two weeks in David Black’s life. What started in February as a new career adventure for the former president and CEO of the Liberty Life Insurance Company in Greenville, dissolved into a nightmare for the Director of the S.C. Department of Insurance who resigned yesterday.
Weighing heavily on Mr. Black’s decision, one he made last week according to an email he sent to staff, surely was the political troubles of his boss, Governor Nikki Haley.
Renee Dudley of the Charleston Post and Courier broke what has now become a national story of South Carolina accepting a $1 million planning grant from the feds to determine if the state would establish and operate a health insurance exchange in 2014 or let the federal government do it. The exchange, a market place for obtaining health insurance, is an integral part of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare to many.
But emails of March 31 of this year—obtained by Ms. Dudley through the Freedom of Information Act—clearly show that Governor Haley had no intention of South Carolina creating an exchange. The problem is that in an Executive Order on March 10th she established a Health Exchange Planning Committee, as called for by the grant, to “develop and submit a report to the Governor by October 28, 2011 which sets forth the Committee’s recommendation regarding whether or not the State should establish a health insurance exchange.”
The planning committee, including Mr. Black, was totally in the dark about the Governor’s earlier decision—except for one member, Tony Keck who is the Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Keck, a former member of Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration, participated in the March 31 email discussion with the Governor and her staff.
The political firestorm that has continued to burn following Ms. Dudley’s story has now consumed its first victim.
It was Mr. Black’s insurance department that received the federal planning grant money and hired a key staffer (who also had no knowledge of the Governor’s ruse) to be in charge of the planning grant and committee. Mr. Black and his insurance department will now have to respond to a possible federal investigation of misusing taxpayer dollars as called for on December 22 by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. On December 23 the Chairman-Elect of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus sent Mr. Black a letter requesting a full briefing on this issue.
Mr. Black didn’t sign up for all this. He certainly was not a knowing party to this charade. And he never really fit into the highly partisan Governor’s operation as dis Mr. Keck. My experience with Mr. Black has been very positive. A very affable person, he demonstrated a professional responsiveness to his duties and those who interacted with his department. There was never even a hint of partisanship in his actions.
So now Mr. Black has done the honorable thing. Instead of trying to mold himself into the continuous campaign mode of Governor Haley’s administration and trying to defend her duplicity in this matter, he resigned.
But the buck doesn’t stop with Mr. Black. Who will the fire burn next?