If you want to learn what your county legislative delegation is up to, you likely won’t find much – if any – information on county government websites or the state Legislature’s website.

The state Supreme Court in 1996 ruled that legislative delegations, made up of senators and House members representing a county, are considered public bodies under the state’s open-meetings law, which requires them to give advance notice of their meetings, cast votes during open session, and make meeting minutes available to citizens.

The Nerve on Wednesday revealed that some delegations have met in legislative buildings on the State House grounds in downtown Columbia far away from their home counties – skirting the intent of the Freedom of Information Act that public meetings be held at a “minimum cost or delay” to citizens.

The Nerve for years has pointed out that delegations exert considerable control in their respective counties through appointments to a number of boards and committees. On Wednesday, the South Carolina Policy Council, the parent organization of The Nerve, published an analysis of delegations’ wide-ranging influence, including appointments to various state boards.

On its website, the Legislature lists the Senate and House members in each of the state’s 46 county delegations. But the site doesn’t give other delegation information, such as upcoming meeting dates in counties, or related agendas and minutes. Occasionally, the Legislature will post agendas of upcoming delegation meetings at the State House complex.

County government websites vary greatly in the amount of delegation information presented, with larger counties generally providing more, though often incomplete, details, a review by The Nerve found.

A longstanding law requires counties to fully fund offices for delegations, though as The Nerve previously has revealed, some counties pay lawmakers in lieu of providing offices. The requirements for delegations under the state’s open-meetings law aren’t dependent on whether the county has a delegation office.

The Nerve this week examined websites of 12 counties to see how delegation information is presented. Following are summary findings:

Aiken – The site has a separate delegation section with contact information for the delegation program manager. But it doesn’t identify the eight delegation members or provide meeting dates, agendas or minutes.

Beaufort – The site has a separate delegation section with contact information for the delegation liaison and nine delegation members, as well as links to boards and committees under the delegation’s control. But it provides no meeting agendas or minutes.

Charleston – The site has a separate delegation section with contact information for the delegation office and 22 delegation members, as well as a link to an application form for appointments to boards or committees under the delegation’s control. Although it has a tab for upcoming meetings, there were no posted meeting agendas or minutes.

Darlington – The site has no separate delegation section. The nine-member delegation includes House speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington.

Florence – The site has no separate delegation section, with only a link to the Legislature’s website. The nine-member delegation is chaired by longtime Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, who also is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

Greenville – The site has a separate delegation section with contact information for the delegation office and 22 delegation members. It also lists information about the delegation’s four quarterly meetings in the county. But it had no details about delegation meetings held last month at the State House complex in Columbia – highlighted in Wednesday’s Nerve story – and doesn’t provide meeting agendas or minutes.

Horry – The site has no separate delegation section, listing mainly press releases on the delegation seeking applicants for boards and committees under the delegation’s control. Contact information for the delegation office is listed at the bottom of the releases, though the 15-member delegation isn’t identified.

Lexington – The site has a separate delegation section with contact information for the office and 14 delegation members, along with details on board and committee vacancies, and application forms. But no delegation meeting agendas or minutes are posted.

Orangeburg – The site has a separate delegation section with biographies and contact information for the six-member delegation, as well as a link to an application form for boards and committees under the delegation’s control. But it provides no meeting dates, agendas or minutes.

Pickens – The site has a separate delegation section with contact information for the office and six of the seven delegation members. Rep. Bill Sandifer, a Republican whose home county is Oconee County but who also is a Pickens County delegation member, is not listed. The site provides minutes of the annual delegation meeting, along with appointment forms, and information on upcoming meetings and board/committee vacancies.

Richland – The site has a separate delegation section with contact information for the office, though no individual contact information for the 17 delegation members other than links to the Legislature’s website. The county site provides delegation meeting agendas but no minutes.

York – The site has no separate delegation section, with only links to the state Legislature’s website. The delegation has 13 members.

Kelly Brady, a policy analyst with the South Carolina Policy Council, the parent organization of The Nerve, contributed to this story. Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

You have no rights to post comments

0
0
0
s2smodern