Governor who vowed transparency now refuses to answer questions

Published on December 18, 2011 in Go Upstate

An investigation by the Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston found that even though Gov. Nikki Haley established a committee to determine whether and how the state should establish its own health insurance exchange, she dictated the eventual results of the committee before it ever met.

The newspaper obtained an email from Haley to her top staff and the committee member who would eventually write its report, stating that the purpose of the committee is to figure out how the state could opt out of the process rather than actually evaluating the value of a health insurance exchange.

That has left some committee members frustrated that they wasted their time working on the committee. Frank Knapp of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who did not serve on the committee, told the Post and Courier that the emails showed the Governor’s Office was still running a campaign rather than honestly evaluating what is best for South Carolinians.

As troublesome as the revelations in the Post and Courier report are, especially considering the expenditure of taxpayers’ money on this committee, what’s even more worrisome is that the Post and Courier received the emails from a Freedom of  Information Act request submitted to the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The newspaper said it submitted a nearly identical request to the Governor’s Office. But the response from the Governor’s Office did not include some emails, including the aforementioned email from Haley.

Why were the same public records not turned over by the Governor’s Office? Was the governor’s staff hiding them? We don’t know because the governor and her staff have refused to answer the questions.

They haven’t just issued convoluted statements that don’treally get to the heart of the matter, they have refused to address the subject,even pointedly ignoring people who have asked the question.

The Post and Courier and a television station have published an online video of Haley awkwardly acting as if people are not asking her questions while her staff shoos reporters away from her.

This is not new for Haley. This is a governor who too often starts news conferences announcing that she won’t take any questions, a governor who routinely deletes emails that should be considered public documents. This is a governor who denounces legislative inquiries into why her appointees act against the state’s best interests.

Now her office is failing to completely comply with Freedom of Information requests and then refusing to talk about it.

Haley ran on a platform of transparency, but she isrunning the most opaque administration South Carolina has seen in years. This state needs a governor who is open and accountable, not one who destroys public records and considers herself above answering questions from the Legislature or the people.

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