South Carolina Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall lost her job briefly on May 18, when the state Supreme Court invalidated Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) power to appoint her.
Hall, a longtime SCDOT employee who twice served as interim transportation secretary, was permanently named to the post in November and confirmed by the state Legislature in January. A 2015 budget provision had temporarily extended Haley’s authority under an earlier agency-restructuring law.
However, the justices sided with a challenge brought by a former South Carolina paving contractor. He claimed that Hall’s appointment was illegal because the extension was not directly part of a highway funding measure, as required by the state constitution.
The South Carolina Transportation Commission met in an emergency session to reappoint Hall and retroactively ratify her actions to July 1, 2015, when Haley’s original appointment power expired.
Hall has earned high marks from legislators on both sides of the aisle for her leadership, including the agency’s response to the October 2015 floods that closed hundreds of roads and bridges.
The ruling comes two months after a legislative audit criticized SCDOT’s unique governance structure whereby a Legislature-appointed commission oversees an agency headed by a gubernatorial appointee. The audit found that the structure created project prioritization and accountability issues.
South Carolina ranks last among states in per capita spending. Legislators hope to pass a 10-year, $2.2-billion road bonding bill that also restructures the Transportation Commission. The governor wouldappoint the commission’s eight members, who then would name the DOT secretary with Legislature approval. Both houses of South Carolina’s General Assembly must approve the measure before their scheduled adjournment on June 2.