Update on Thursday: Gov. Nikki Haley's office released Kela Thomas' resignation letter.
Thomas says she is leaving Jan. 1, but does not say why she resigned her $99,421-a-year job.
"I appreciate the trust that you put in me to transform South Carolina and I believe during my tenure as director of the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services that we have made great changes," she wrote.
Kela Thomas, one of two African-Americans in Gov. Nikki Haley's Cabinet, has resigned as director of the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
An email was sent through the agency Wednesday saying Scott Norton, deputy director for field operations, was acting director, department spokesman Peter O’Boyle said.
The email did not state why Thomas was leaving, O’Boyle said. Efforts to reach Thomas were not successful Wednesday.
Haley said she accepted Thomas’ resignation but did not say why she left her job.
“We’ve met with all (Cabinet directors) and some are tired, and some feel like it’s time for them to move on,” Haley told reporters Wednesday. “Some have gotten great opportunities in the private sector.
“What I will tell you specifically about Director Thomas is she was a great leader, she was great to work with, she worked well in her agency, and we’re going to be sad to see her go.”
Haley’s office did not respond to questions about whether the governor declined to reappoint Thomas as the parole agency’s director. Haley’s office also did not release Thomas’ resignation letter.
Thomas and Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith were the only African-Americans on Haley’s 16-member cabinet. Smith was appointed to a six-year term in 2011.
Haley has shaken up her Cabinet since winning a second term in November.
The Republican has named three new directors since her re-election, including a new Social Services boss. She also will have at least one more new agency director to name, since Department of Juvenile Justice director Margaret Barber has announced plans to leave.
Thomas was a 12-year agency veteran when she was appointed to lead the department, which oversees nearly 32,000 offenders on parole and probation in the state. The Orangeburg native had been an agency adviser on legislative policy, budgeting, training, information technology and strategic planning.
Probation revocations have dropped by 45 percent during Thomas’ term to 2,620 in 2013 from 4,783 in 2010.
To avoid costly prison stays, some probation violators now face less severe punishment, such as picking up trash on the highway or reporting to probation officers more frequently. The agency also has worked to get those on probation involved in a church or support group.
“PPP has really improved in last several years,” said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington. “(Thomas) has been a quality director.”
But a 2013 Legislative Audit Council report found the parole agency did not use $3.8 million from lawmakers to hire new probation officers, instead using the money to build up its rainy-day fund. Haley pulled support for extra funding for the agency after the audit.
Thomas continued to look for extra money for the department. This fall, she asked for $2.2 million in savings from the Department of Corrections since more offenders are receiving probation sentences.
Haley and some lawmakers want to merge the parole and corrections departments. But legislation to merge the two departments has failed to win enough support to pass the General Assembly.
Staff writer Cassie Cope contributed.