S.C. Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith announced he would step down when his second term ends in February. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

An internal state Department of Public Safety report in November concluded a retired Highway Patrol administrator interfered in the 2014 arrest of a prominent Clemson booster, which lawmakers cite as an example of the culture that contributed to the impending departure of embattled Director Leroy Smith. “I think what we’re looking at here is a culture that was established and permitted under his leadership,” said state Rep. Gary Clary, a Clemson Republican and former judge who sits on the House Legislative Oversight Committee. “I think the fact the governor pulls the trigger on not to reappoint Director Smith and this coming out in a similar time frame is probably more coincidental than anything, but it’s another log on the fire.” Smith said in an email to Department of Public Safety staffers last week that he wouldn’t be appointed to a third term by Gov. Henry McMaster. His term ends Feb. 1. Smith came to South Carolina in 2011 from Florida to serve in former Gov. Nikki Haley’s cabinet. The news came two weeks after the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility completed a probe into the actions of an Upstate Highway Patrol captain stemming from the 2014 DUI arrest of Stanley Riggins, a donor to Clemson University’s athletic booster program. Before the Clemson donor could be processed on a DUI and open-container charge by a state trooper, former Highway Patrol Capt. Stacey Craven — the supervisor — came to the Pickens County jail and released the donor to his family, according to a copy of the 96-page investigative report obtained by The Post and Courier. The DUI charge was dropped in April 2017, but Riggins, who has a Clemson football endowment named after him, paid a $257 fine for the open-container charge, according to a solicitor’s report. Meanwhile, North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess has been nominated to be the director of the Department of Public Safety. — Adam Benson, The Post and Courier

Rumors of gunman at mall unfounded

Popping balloons at the Columbiana Centre mall led to rumors of an active shooter situation on Nov. 30. According to The State’s David Travis Bland, Richland County Sheriff Department officials and mall staff confirmed that there was not a shooter in or near the mall. Bland reports that “the rumor was started after balloons were popped inside the mall and caused a ‘mass hysteria.’” The Columbia Police Department said that the balloons “startled shoppers.” Stores were briefly evacuated, but business later returned to normal after the gun rumors were debunked. — Chris Trainor

Buttigieg drops $2 million on first statewide ad in SC

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is spending $2 million on his first statewide political TV ad in South Carolina, according to The State’s Maayan Schechter. The ad was set to begin hitting airwaves in South Carolina on Dec. 3. The ad is a significant move for the South Bend, Indiana mayor, who is looking to introduce himself widely to voters — particularly African American voters — who will head to the polls for the Feb. 29 Democratic primary. Buttigieg was set to visit South Carolina State University on Dec. 2. The Democratic field for the presidential nomination remains crowded, with 17 candidates still in the race. — Chris Trainor

South Carolina thrashed by Clemson; Muschamp shaking up staff

The University of South Carolina’s dreadful football season came to a close on Nov. 30, as the Gamecocks got pummeled 38-3 by archrival Clemson at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Tigers thoroughly whipped USC, gaining 527 total yards to the Gamecocks’ 174. With the loss, South Carolina finished the season with a 4-8 record. Meanwhile, Clemson finished the regular season 12-0, and will face Virginia Dec. 7 in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. South Carolina is expected to make significant changes to its football coaching staff. The Post and Courier’s David Cloninger reports that USC strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman has been fired, along with quarterbacks coach Dan Werner. Meanwhile, Cloninger reports that offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon, the team’s chief play-caller, was being demoted. “At the end of the day, we need to be more productive. That’s the bottom line. I’m tired of talking about it,” Muschamp said after the Clemson game. Quarterback Jake Bentley, who missed nearly the entire 2019 season with a foot injury, announced Dec. 2 he would be transferring and would play a final season of college football elsewhere. — Chris Trainor

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