You may have noticed that yesterday I mentioned having met with the S.C. Employment Security Commission. Well, I wrote a column for Sunday based in part upon that, and I thought I'd go ahead and post the video that goes with the column.
We talked about plenty of other stuff, but I had terrible luck with catching the good bits on video. Seems like every time they said something interesting, I'd have switched my camera to still photos, and when I went back to video, it was Dullsville. This clip was about the only entire, coherent bit of any interest that I captured in its entirety.
In the wide-ranging discussion, there were high points and low points, for instance:
- High point — The ESC members, after having been defiant as recently as the day before, promised they'd get the information the governor had been asking for to him — or 90-95 percent of it — by Feb. 9. They said the rest of it is just stuff they don't have because they don't collect that kind of data. Anyway, John O'Connor of our newsroom, who sat in on our meeting, wrote about that in today's paper.
- Low point — We asked why in the world they have their own TV studio, and the answer wasn't satisfactory — to me, anyway. But then, how could it be? No, it doesn't add up to a lot of money, and it's a bit of a red herring compared to the actual reason why the unemployment benefits trust fund is out of money: Several years ago the Legislature cut the tax that businesses pay into the fund, and we've been paying our more than we take in since at least 2001. That said, the TV studio does sound ridiculous.
But the subject in the video was the thing that grabbed my attention, because it spoke to the problem of the gross failure to communicate between the Commission and the governor. After all this silly back and forth the last couple of months — and it IS silly (of COURSE the Commission needs the money the governor is trying to hold back, as anyone who has seen what's happening in our state can attest, and of COURSE the Commission was being absurdly petulant by trying to hold info back from the gov), not to mention just plain wrong — I had to ask them if they ever sat down to talk to the governor face to face.
I asked that for a couple of reasons. First, people who are sitting down talking to each other don't act the way the governor and the commissioner had been acting. Once you're dealing with someone as an actual person, rather than some faceless opponent out there, you show them more respect than this. Second, I asked because our governor is Mark Sanford. Most governors are interested enough in actually governing that they try to maintain contact and communications with the various parts of government on a regular basis. Not this guy — for him, it's about the press release, the statement, the op-ed piece, the piglets in the lobby; NOT about sitting down with people and reasoning with them.
The commissioners went on at some length about how the governor had never sat down for a meeting with them in his six years in office, and how he had never accepted an invitation to speak to their big annual luncheon — unlike every previous governor they had known. (And that latter bit REALLY rang true, as one thing I've noticed about this governor is that he has little affinity for the rubber-chicken circuit — not that I do myself, but most governors hit all those events they can.)
Anyway, what is NOT on the video is what Joel Sawyer in the governor's office said to Cindi Scoppe the next morning (and I'm copying and pasting some notes Cindi sent me):
We actually found where the gov did indeed meet with them in 2003, and had a letter from ted halley thanking him for meeting with them. he’s also had conversations with all of the commissioners over time.
we looked for more recent requests for meetings, and the only one was I guess a week before they ran out of money. at that point it was just on such short notice that the gov couldn’t attend, but scott english and joe taylor did…
Here's a copy of the 2003 Ted Halley letter
So I called Commissioner McKinley Washington to ask about that, and he said the 2003 "meeting" was one of the incidents they talked about on the video: The commissioners were meeting with Eddie Gunn of the governor's staff, and the governor briefly stuck his head in the door and said hi, and that was about it. It was NOT a meeting with the governor, he said.
Mr. Washington also mentions on the video, and repeated to me Friday, that there was a later incident in which the commissioners were meeting with Chief of Staff Henry White, and the governor — who had apparently changed clothes for a press conference or something, "cracked the door" open long enough to "reach in and grab his denim" so he could change back. And that was it.
So I asked how come ESC executive director Halley sent that note to the governor thanking him for his time back in 2003? "That was just a courtesy statement, but he did not meet with us," said Mr. Washington. "You try to be nice."
Finally, the commissioners said that they tried to meet with the governor at the beginning of the current crisis, but were told he was unavailable, so they met with Scott English (of the governor's staff) and Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor instead (the Sawyer notes above allude to that).
Anyway, more on the subject in my Sunday column…