Campbell off ports board

Carroll A. Campbell III

Sanford ousts consulting firm chair over a potential conflict of interest

Gov. Mark Sanford, citing a potential conflict of interest involving lobbying rules, this week removed Carroll A. Campbell III from the board of the State Ports Authority.

Campbell, son of former Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. and an outspoken opponent to the idea of privatizing the state's marine terminals, said Wednesday that he previously was asked to resign by Sanford's office but declined.

Campbell said an executive order issued Monday removing him from the SPA's board did not "catch me by surprise." The reasons cited for the move were baseless, he added.

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Wednesday that the governor has "a great deal of respect for the Campbell family" and that issuing the order was "something he didn't want to do." At the same time, Sanford felt it was important to not only uphold the law, but uphold the intent of the law, Sawyer said.

Campbell, who has been active in Republican politics, is chairman of Carroll Campbell & Associates, a Columbia-based governmental affairs consulting firm.

Because of the firm's activities, he risked violating state law that prohibits lobbyists from sitting on state-appointed boards, Sawyer said. Sanford's office has acknowledged that Campbell himself is not a registered lobbyist. "We thought that there was a potential for a conflict," Sawyer said.

Sanford appointed Campbell to the nine-member SPA board in June 2003 and he has served as secretary and treasurer. His term was set to expire in 2010.

Sanford has nominated S. Richard Hagins of Simpsonville, chief executive of Universal Supplies and Services Inc. of Greenville and a retired U.S. Navy commander, to replace Campbell. The appointment must by approved by the state Senate. Hagins could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Campbell said he was asked last Thursday in a letter signed by Sanford chief of staff Tom Davis, also a former SPA board member, to step down by the start of the legislative session, which began

Tuesday.

The Jan. 3 letter acknowledged Campbell was not a registered lobbyist, but it also noted he and the governor apparently did not see eye to eye over the idea of privatizing of South Carolina's ports.

Davis wrote that Campbell "discourages the investment of private capital, whereas the governor wants the SPA to more aggressively pursue that capital."

During an August 2005 meeting, Campbell floated a proposal asking fellow board members, including Davis, to prevent the SPA from completely privatizing new terminals planned for North Charleston and in Jasper County.

His reasoning was that if the SPA turned over its terminals to a private firm, nonunion SPA employees would be replaced by an all-union labor force, which in turn could raise operating costs, lead to work stoppages and make the port less competitive.

Davis and two other SPA board members voted against Campbell's proposal, but it passed 5-3.

Campbell underscored his position Wednesday, saying he has never been opposed the idea of using public-private partnerships to develop ports in South Carolina. But the state should never relinquish control of its marine terminals to private companies because they would become "100 percent unionized," he said.

The SPA recently started development of its Navy base port without a private-sector partner.

South Carolina and Georgia have announced plans to work together build a giant terminal in Jasper.

Campbell further said the SPA board was under "a lot of pressure" to develop the Jasper site with Seattle-based private terminal operator SSA Marine, which planned to build the Savannah River port with Jasper County until their deal was scuttled by a state Supreme Court ruling.

"I believe the governor wants to privatize everything," Campbell said.

Sawyer acknowledged that while Campbell's stand on privatization was a factor in Sanford's decision to remove him from the board, but added that the primary reason was the conflict of interest concerns.