David Wilkins said Tuesday that Gov. Jim Hodges
and Secretary of Commerce Charlie Way need to
clean up a tainted state Department of Commerce.
An internal investigation
released Tuesday said Wayne Sterling, the former
chief of staff for Commerce, overlooked
questionable purchasing practices by Beth
Braswell, another ex-Commerce employee. Both
resigned Sept. 17.
A spokeswoman for Hodges
said the problems have been addressed.
But Wilkins said questions
linger. With the economy stalling, South
Carolina can't afford to have the reputation of
its chief recruiting arm damaged, he said.
"What I'm afraid of is
that this is the tip of the iceberg," said
Wilkins, R-Greenville. "I think it's becoming
apparent to all of us that there's a scandal at
came a week after reports that Sterling's
$130,000 state salary was supplemented with
money from private companies. Some GOP
legislators said that was inappropriate. Way
helped raise the private money.
Hodges, a Democrat, needs
to restore confidence in the state agency,
"There's a mess at
Commerce," Wilkins said. "The governor should
take action to clean up the mess. If he doesn't,
the Legislature might have to step in."
Cortney Owings, Hodges'
spokeswoman, said the governor stands by Way and
the Department of Commerce. Way discovered a
problem and took care of it, Owings said.
"We have no concerns at
this time," she said.
Way said Tuesday he made
mistakes in his dealings with Sterling. As
Commerce secretary, Way is a political appointee
of Hodges and makes $1 a year. Since taking
office in 1999, Way, a real estate businessman
from Charleston, has remained active in his
company, The Beach Co.
Sterling, as chief of
staff, ran the day-to-day operations of the
Department of Commerce, but Way said he kept
close tabs on the organization.
"Wayne and I would talk,
but I was not getting all the information,
obviously," Way said.
Sterling, an industrial
recruiter credited with helping South Carolina
land automaker BMW, was allowed too much
freedom, Way said. "I gave too much authority to
one individual," he said.
Sterling says he did
The Department of Commerce
is taking steps to ensure closer oversight, Way
said. Since Sterling resigned, Way said he has
become more involved in the internal workings of
the state agency. The Department of Commerce
said it would welcome recommendations by the
Legislative Audit Council. The audit council
looks into financial issues, usually at the
request of lawmakers.
One minor change,
concerning golf outings, already has been put in
place. The Department of Commerce's
investigation said Braswell arranged a personal
golf event for Sterling and a group of business
All state-funded golf
outings to recruit companies now must be
approved by Way or new chief of staff Jim
Despite recent events, his
department is serving the state well, Way said.
"I don't think this is a scandal by any stretch
of the imagination," he said.
Way said he will serve one
term as secretary of Commerce and will step down
in January 2003, even if Hodges is reelected.
The move is prompted by
his wife and not recent events, Way said. Before
accepting the position, he told his wife he'd
retire to raise horses after one term.
Other state legislators
say they haven't lost faith in Way, but would
like more information.
Rep. Harry Cato,
R-Greenville and chairman of the House Labor,
Commerce and Industry Committee, said Hodges
needs to provide further explanation.
"I think the governor owes
the General Assembly a full report on what's
been going on at Commerce," Cato said. "We
deserve to know what's going on."