News. Brief.: SC has no rules on identifying or removing toxic mold, but that could change

Mold at a McMaster rental

At a Columbia rental property owned by Gov. Henry McMaster, mold festers in a corner of the downstairs bathroom.

South Carolina’s lack of rules or protections against potentially toxic mold allows landlords to ignore complaints, swindlers to prey on flood victims and well-meaning handymen who don’t know what they’re doing to make problems worse, according to testimony before legislators looking to change that. While mold is certainly nothing new in this often muggy, sweltering state, the floodwaters that have inundated communities in recent seasons — starting with the “thousand-year” flood of 2015 — have brought attention to the state’s inability to help residents or even give advice to government agencies when homes and buildings could make people sick. “There’s absolutely nothing in the state of South Carolina to protect the public,” said state Rep. Roger Kirby, who represents tiny Pee Dee towns nearly wiped out by hurricane-caused flooding in recent years. “Anybody who wants to say, ‘I’m a mold abater,’ all they have to do is go out and hang a shingle,” he added. The Lake City Democrat sits on a joint House-Senate mold-abatement study committee that began meeting this fall to find solutions to a problem that can cause respiratory issues, fatigue and skin conditions in some people. A report to the Legislature is due by year’s end. — Seanna Adcox, The Post and Courier

Tanner states support for Muschamp, then Gamecocks get pounded by Texas A&M

University of South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner on Nov. 15 issued a statement of support for embattled football Coach Will Muschamp, whose team has struggled mightily during the 2019 season, Muschamp’s fourth at the helm. “Today, I want to make it clear that Will Muschamp is our football coach and will be our coach going forward. President [Bob] Caslen and I are fully supportive of his leadership and his development of student-athletes on and off the field,” Tanner said in the statement. “While we wish the outcome of some of our games would have been different, we are excited about the future of our program.” The following day, on Nov. 16, the Gamecocks got dismantled 30-6 by Texas A&M. It was an anemic offensive performance by USC, which had 260 total yards of offense and converted only two third downs all night. South Carolina got only 12 yards rushing from senior running back Rico Dowdle. The second-leading rusher on the night was punter Joseph Charlton, who scrambled for 10 yards on a busted play. The loss sent USC spiraling to 4-7, and assures it will have a losing season. South Carolina will close the 2019 campaign on Nov. 30 when it hosts Clemson, the defending national champions who are currently 11-0 on the year. — Chris Trainor

Since 2000, nearly half of more than 700 SC officials accused of misconduct not convicted

Roughly half of South Carolina officials charged with misconduct in office during the past two decades were not convicted of the offense, a Post and Courier analysis of state court records shows. The newspaper examined S.C. Judicial Department data on criminal case dispositions for common law misconduct in office and a lesser charge, statutory misconduct in office. The analysis determined that out of 760 such charges adjudicated between July 1, 2000, and the end of June, 364 cases ended without convictions — 48 percent.  For many in South Carolina’s legal community, misconduct in office charges are important tools to keep public officials accountable, but their use remains controversial and some say the laws are overly broad. “It is used as a hammer by prosecutors across our state,” said Greg Harris, a Columbia attorney and former federal prosecutor. “It can be any number of (offenses). It can be the misappropriation of funds. It can be violations of state ethics laws. ... Both (charges) are very broad. The reason we have these statutes is to hold officials to a higher standard.” The common law offense, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, has been at the center of a number of high-profile cases against public officials in the Palmetto State, including those pursued against several former lawmakers during the Statehouse corruption probe involving political kingmaker Richard Quinn. — Gregory Yee, The Post and Courier

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