South Carolina panel recommends governor control of agency

November 12, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A legislative panel recommends that the governor be put in charge of the agency that helps South Carolinians with disabilities.

The House Legislative Oversight Committee has endorsed a proposal to place the Department of Disabilities and special Needs in the governor’s cabinet, The Greenville News reported.

The newspaper has reported for two years about allegations of abuse and neglect, long waits for services, questions of financial management and problems with local boards.

The agency is run by commissioners appointed by the governor now. But the governor does not have direct control of the department. The General Assembly would have to approve any changes.

Interim Director Patrick Maley says he thinks the agency can be more responsive to the public if it remains separate from the governor’s office.

“The Commission believes its form of governance with greater stakeholder and citizen access and responsiveness can more reliably stimulate positive change than a more bureaucratic form of governance,” Maley wrote in August.

The legislative committee’s proposal would keep the agency’s board of commissioners but make it an advisory panel.

The panel also recommends that county special needs boards become advisory panels and that the county employees become state employees.

The department has an annual budget of about $762 million, although most of it comes from federal funding. It supervises the care of people with intellectual disabilities, autism, and brain and spinal-cord injuries through a network of dozens of county disabilities agencies, DDSN-run regional centers, and private for-profit and nonprofit service providers.

The General Assembly’s watchdog agency has issued two highly critical performance audit reports about DDSN in the past 10 years, but some of its recommendations for legislation have been ignored by lawmakers.

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