Politics & Government

SC GOP gubernatorial hopeful took contract with state agency a day after quitting as its chief

The day after quitting as head of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, Republican Catherine Templeton became a paid consultant to that agency, being paid more than her monthly salary to head it.

The Charleston labor attorney – who hopes to unseat Gov. Henry McMaster in next June’s GOP primary for governor – was paid $17,300 a month as a consultant to the state’s health and environment agency.

After resigning as DHEC’s head in January 2015, Templeton was paid $86,500 over five months as a consultant – the maximum allowed in the contract.

Her salary as DHEC chief was $169,081 as of her last day – or $14,090 a month.

The consulting arrangement raises questions, McMaster campaign consultant Tim Pearson said.

“It's strange, certainly, that somebody would get paid more money to be a consultant to an agency than they were to run an agency,” said Pearson, a former chief of staff and political adviser to Gov. Nikki Haley, who was governor at the time. “It's certainly not something I saw anywhere else during my time in and around state government.

“People have a right to know exactly what Catherine did to earn the $86,500 they paid her.”

Templeton is not the only GOP candidate for governor to be a paid consultant to a state agency.

In his tax returns, McMaster, who was S.C. attorney general until 2011, reported being paid $459,867 from 2012 through 2014 as a fundraiser for the University of South Carolina.

‘Sort of standard operating procedures’

Templeton said there was nothing unusual about the consulting deal.

“It's just sort of standard operating procedures for them,” Templeton said of DHEC paying its former director to be a consultant while the agency transitioned to a new director.

DHEC had retained its outgoing director as a consultant before and plans to do so again.

Templeton’s predecessor, Earl Hunter, was paid $15,000 a month for three months after he resigned from leading the agency, according to contracts and invoices the agency provided. Hunter also started his contractual work for DHEC the day after he resigned.

Current DHEC director Catherine Heigel, whose last day at the agency will be Aug. 4, also will be hired as a consultant to assist with the transition to a new director, agency spokesperson Jennifer Read said. That agreement, including how much Heigel will be paid, has not been finalized yet, Read said.

Templeton said she never had any conversations with agency leaders about what she would be paid, adding she thought DHEC was paying her what she cost – salary and benefits.

While a DHEC contract employee, Templeton also said she worked with then-Gov. Haley and her aides to get her successor confirmed.

Templeton also worked for the S.C. Department of Revenue in 2015. She was paid $12,500 a month for about three months. The contract was approved from April 2015 through the end of that year, but Templeton stopped working for the agency in June 2015.

Templeton may be Gov. McMaster’s greatest obstacle to winning a four-year term as governor.

The Richland Republican was elected lieutenant governor in 2016 but became governor in January, when Haley resigned to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Templeton, a Charleston labor attorney who ran the state’s labor agency before moving to DHEC, has raised nearly $1.5 million in her bid to win the GOP nomination for governor.

McMaster has raised nearly $1.8 million in his bid to keep his job.