Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The resignation of a State Highway Patrol Sergeant sparked backlash against the head of the Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Lawmakers called for the resignation of Director Leroy Smith earlier this week. Much of this decision stemmed from previous reports of high turnover within DPS. However, a climate survey conducted by the State Inspector General revealed that employee morale was low.
"The overwhelming majority of this agency is dissatisfied," says Sgt. David Whatley. He testified in front of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Monday. His statements matched the results of that survey.
Sixty questions were asked to employees, both civilian and sworn officers within the department.
Part of the survey showed that 68 percent of sworn officers "disagreed" and "strongly disagreed" with the statement "Morale at work is good."
Of the civilian employees, 47 percent also disagreed with that statement.
Lawmakers within the legislative oversight committee wrote a letter to Governor Henry McMaster asking for Dir. Smith's resignation.
"We're not on a witch hunt," says Representative Bill Hixon, R-Aiken. "It's evident, it's plain, you can see it an if 62 percent of an organization complains about the higher echelon staff then something has to be wrong."
"We believe, without question, that the mission of the agency is compromised," says Rep. Weston Newton, R-Beaufort and Chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee. "The buck stops at the top and that is the director. As a consequence of that failure in leadership and compromising the mission to keep not only public safe, but also the troopers safe that we believe change is needed."
Governor McMaster explained during a press conference this week that he is working with director smith to come up with solutions to the issues within the department.
Director Leroy Smith released this statement saying:
"Our leadership team has taken a number of steps to better understand employees' concerns that arose from the Inspector General's climate study. We have already begun implementing new avenues for employees to provide feedback and share concerns with agency leadership. I want to reassure our employees and our state's citizens that I am more committed than ever before to serving and protecting this state alongside the committed group of professionals within the Department of Public Safety."
A list of changes being implemented within DPS can be found here.