The attorney and recently silenced spokeswoman for South Carolina’s Ethics Commission is leaving that agency for another state government job.
Attorney Cathy Hazelwood said Monday she will leave the S.C. State Ethics Commission early next month to work at the Department of Education under Republican Superintendent-elect Molly Spearman.
Spearman also has picked Virgie Chambers, a public-health administrator, to join her team in January as deputy superintendent for operations. Chambers is the manager of legislative services for the S.C. Institute of Medicine and Public Health, a Columbia-based nonprofit that does health policy research. She has 25 years of experience working in state government in various finance and policy roles.
Spearman spokesman Ryan Brown confirmed Hazelwood, whose Ethics Commission job pays about $68,500 a year, will be working on the Education Department’s legal team. The Education Department’s general counsel makes about $119,000 a year.
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Hazelwood’s official position has not been decided, Brown said.
The move is a big one — from the Ethics Commission, with its annual budget of about $818,000 and 10 full-time staff members, to the Education Department, which had a 1,000-person payroll in 2013 and a roughly $4 billion-a-year budget.
At the Ethics Commission, Hazelwood was a go-to source for insights on how to read the state’s ethics laws. Media frequently sought her comments on ethics complaints against high-profile public officials, including Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Columbia’s Democratic Mayor Steve Benjamin.
But the 15-year ethics attorney found herself at the center of controversy earlier this year when the commission and its director, Herb Hayden, created a policy that said all media inquiries should go through Hayden, not Hazelwood.
The policy effectively silenced Hazelwood from talking to the media.
The policy, pushed by Hayden and James Burns, Ethics Commission chairman at the time, came about a year after Hayden and Hazelwood disagreed publicly over an ethics case involving Haley.
Hazelwood asked Haley to reimburse the state for the cost of a security detail that went on a trip attended by Haley’s campaign staff. Hayden later said Haley did not have to reimburse the state for the security detail because the trip was not campaign related.
Burns, now Haley’s chief of staff, said at the time the Ethics Commission’s flip-flop did not motivate his push for a new media policy at the agency.
The Ethics Commission is advertising for a new attorney.