Haley absence at event irks some

06/19/2012 12:00 AM

06/19/2012 12:30 AM

Gov. Nikki Haley is getting heat for skipping the traditional gubernatorial appearance at an annual gathering of teen leaders.

Some organizers and parents are upset at her absence at Friday’s conclusion of Palmetto Boys State and Palmetto Girls State, a weeklong lesson in civics for 1,450 of South Carolina’s top high school students.

“It left a terrible impression,” said the Rev. Sinclair Lewis of Anderson, secretary-treasurer of Boys State. “It was rude.”

Haley went instead to celebrate a manufacturing plant opening in York.

“Scheduling conflicts arise in any governor’s office and on Friday, the governor was committed to a grand-opening celebration in York that represents a $20 million job-creating investment,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said.

But it’s rare for a governor to ignore the event as Haley did, Lewis said.

State officials typically send representatives to stand in when demands take them elsewhere, but that didn’t happen, he said.

“Boys and Girls State is a great program — she (Haley) has visited it before and loves it because it helps young people understand the power of their voice,” Godfrey said. “ She looks forward to visiting them again.”

Mayor Steve Benjamin also didn’t come to welcome the students — who spend most of their time at Upstate colleges — to Columbia. That was due to a long-standing commitment at a U.S. Conference of Mayors session in Orlando, Benjamin aide Michael Wukela said. Benjamin is one of the leaders of that group.

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