COLUMBIA, SC — The director of South Carolinas unemployment agency has resigned, effective March 1.
Department of Employment and Workforce Director Abraham Turner turned in a hand-written resignation letter to the governor Friday.
In the letter, Turner says he is resigning for personal reasons. His resignation follows questions from legislators stemming from the agencys decision to eliminate one-on-one help for people seeking benefits in 17 rural offices statewide.
Haley says she wishes Turner nothing but the best.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey says the agencys former director, John Finan, will return on an interim basis.
Haley picked the former commanding officer of Fort Jackson to lead the troubled agency in May 2011. Turner did not start his new role until September 2011, after retiring from the Army.
The employment agencys woes have become a subject of almost daily criticism in the Legislature.
State Sen. Ken Bryant, R-Anderson, took to the floor Thursday to blast what he said were outlandish raises -- some of more than 50 percent -- recently given some agency employees. Bryant also said the agency was claiming victory for lowering jobless benefits improperly paid to $50 million from $90 million.
Other senators joined in a bipartisan display of frustration.
At one point, Bryant and Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, exchanged criticisms of the agency, with Setzler, a moderate Democrat, and Bryant, a Tea Party Republican, both ripping the agency and its leadership, citing recent cuts in its staffing and the raises, the closing of rural offices and an oceanside management retreat.
The drumbeat of criticism continued Friday.
Gov. Haley has allowed her agency, SC DEW, to become an absolute embarrassment, said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia. In the last two weeks, the governors agency has made news because of crippling layoffs, massive pay raises, lavish taxpayer-funded beach retreats, the closing of 17 unemployment centers in rural counties and now the resignation of the executive director.
Governor Haley must regain control of her agency before it is too late.