Two state agencies have little to show for the work that Catherine Templeton – a Republican hoping to oust Gov. Henry McMaster – performed as a highly paid consultant.
Templeton was paid $124,000 over a five-month period in 2015 as a consultant to the S.C. Department of Revenue and state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Templeton could have been paid as much as $199,000 but quit her Revenue Department consulting contract early, saying her work was done just days after The State reported her contract publicly.
What the Charleston attorney, who once led the state’s labor agency and DHEC, did for the consulting money is unclear from public records.
Few — if any — written records of Templeton’s consulting work exist, the agencies told The State. Only contracts, invoices requesting payment and a single Revenue Department email — in which Templeton discusses a meeting involving two technology vendors — surfaced in a public records request.
Templeton did not respond to a request for her own records of her work at the agencies.
But her campaign manager, Jordan Wiggins, issued a statement saying Templeton “complied with both the letter and the spirit of her contract requirements and was always looking out to save taxpayer money."
DHEC’s board chairman and the former state Revenue Department chief – both donors to Templeton’s gubernatorial campaign – defended the contracts, saying she performed valuable services for their agencies.
“Catherine Templeton had federal security clearances and a non-disclosure agreement, and it was important that she be available for advice and perspective as we searched for a new director,” said DHEC chairman Allen Amsler.
Templeton’s state consulting work has come into question as she attempts to unseat Gov. McMaster in next June’s GOP primary. Thus far in her campaign, Templeton has pitched herself as an outsider who will clean up corruption in state government, a pointed jab at McMaster’s ties to an embattled Columbia political consulting firm.
However, the lack of detailed reports or other records in consulting agreements — like Templeton’s — raises questions, a good government watchdog says.
“Consulting without any evidence of a work product is always disturbing,” said Lynn Teague with the League of Women Voters. “Large amounts of money change hands in South Carolina for consulting by high-level officials and elected officials, and it is susceptible to abuse because there is no documentation of work product.”
As a contract employee for the Revenue Department, Templeton was paid $37,500 over three months.
The Charleston lawyer “was actively and substantially involved in (an anti-fraud) project and essentially served as the project manager,” said former Revenue Department director Rick Reames. “She terminated the contract when the work had reached a point that DOR staff could run with it.”
Reames, who has donated $3,500 to Templeton’s campaign, said he wanted to hire Templeton full time to work on the project, aimed at preventing fraudulent tax returns. Templeton “had dealt with similar software and analytics programs at DHEC,” Reames said, adding she declined a full-time role.
While she was consulting, Reames said Templeton was in Columbia frequently, meeting with Revenue Department staff and technology vendors.
The State requested all emails between Templeton and Reames. However, those emails were destroyed after Reames left the agency, as called for under federal tax security policy, current Revenue Department Director Hartley Powell said.
Asked last month about her DHEC consulting contract, which paid her $86,500 over five months, Templeton said she worked with then-Gov. Nikki Haley and her aides to get her successor confirmed. She invoiced DHEC for three round trips to Columbia from Charleston, including two trips for a meeting and confirmation hearing for Catherine Heigel, her successor.
DHEC board chairman Amsler, who has donated $1,500 personally and $3,500 through his construction company to Templeton’s gubernatorial campaign, did not provide specific details Thursday on the issues where he sought Templeton’s advice.
“Various representatives of DHEC, including myself, members of the governor’s office and the Legislature had a great deal of interaction and discussions regarding public health matters, personnel decisions and legislative activities,” Amsler said in an email to The State. “There was value in Catherine’s service to DHEC and the state.”
After resigning as head of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, GOP gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton was paid $124,000 to consult for two agencies. A look at those payments:
Department of Health and Environmental Control: $86,500 over five months
Department of Revenue: $37,500 over three months.