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SC lawmaker warns Citadel board chairman to resign or he will propose law ousting him

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State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, a Republican from Georgetown and a 2004 graduate of The Citadel, wrote a letter to the historic military college's Board of Visitors on Sept. 2 demanding that Chairman Fred Price step down. Provided 

A South Carolina senator wants the chairman of The Citadel's Board of Visitors to resign because the official stood behind an anti-hazing measure at the military college, and the lawmaker threatened to propose legislation that would effectively oust the school official from his post if he doesn't step down.

State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, a Republican from Georgetown and a 2004 graduate of The Citadel, wrote a letter to the historic military college's Board of Visitors on Sept. 2 demanding that Chairman Fred Price step down and detailed his plan to remove him if he doesn't.

The revelation comes in advance of Price returning Wednesday before a legislative panel that screens people who seek, or want to keep, a position on the governing board of a public college in South Carolina. In a highly unusual move, the panel of House and Senate members will reevaluate Price on his role as chairman.

The re-questioning comes months after the joint committee found Price qualified to stay in the role and forwarded his name to the entire General Assembly for a vote, which had to be delayed when the pandemic ended the regular session early. Legislators are scheduled to vote during a special session later this month. 

Price has no opposition for the seat. But the panel could decide to reopen applications.   

The freshman senator wrote he is angry with Price and accused the chairman of misleading alumni about his support to implement a policy where rising sophomores will be assigned to a different company than they were in their freshman year. That changes a long tradition at the school where freshmen stay with the same group of cadets all four years. 

Goldfinch, a former state House member, wrote he would submit legislation that would effectively end Price's involvement with the board if he didn't resign.

"Enclosed you will find a piece of legislation that eliminates the service of anyone on the Board of Visitors who has served more than 12 years," Goldfinch wrote. "I WILL be filing this legislation and seeking immediate consideration if Fred has not resigned by September 22, 2020." 

Price told The Post and Courier that he was unsettled by Goldfinch's numerous efforts to oust him.

"The letter speaks for itself," Price said. "I was shocked and surprised. And I'm also offended by it."

The contentious change to the fourth-class system has resulted in a wave of pushback from some alumni. Under the existing system, most Citadel cadets spend all four years with a close-knit group of classmates known as a cadet company. This is one aspect of the discipline system, which requires freshman cadets to obey the lawful orders of any upperclassman.

The so-called sophomore shuffle has been labeled as an administrative effort to curb hazing and improve leadership training for all cadets. Citadel President Glenn Walters announced the change last year. 

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Goldfinch has been one of the most vocal opponents of the change. In his letter to Board of Visitors earlier this month, he accused Price of not properly conveying the alumni concerns of the sophomore shuffle to the board. 

Price said Goldfinch even typed up a resignation letter for him to sign in March, removing himself as chairman effective June 30. He didn't sign it.

"As some of you know, at the beginning of the year, I offered Fred the ability to stay-on as a board member if he would have simply resigned his chairmanship," Goldfinch wrote in his letter to the Board of Visitors. "That offer was rebuffed. I then offered Fred to simply resign prior to the public vote. That offer was also rejected." 

Goldfinch told the newspaper that he felt Price was dishonest and a "bad apple" that is damaging the school's reputation and future. 

"That letter was intended to weigh heavily on his colleagues," Goldfinch said. "My hope was to save The Citadel from some embarrassment as well as Fred Price and his family by having him resign. He has chosen to give me the proverbial finger and take it to a vote."

Goldfinch wrote in his letter that his proposed legislation regarding the Board of Visitors term limits has the support of "nearly the entire Senate Republican Caucus."

Price graduated from The Citadel in 1975. He has served on the board since 2007 and was elected unanimously to serve as chairman in 2017. He said part of his responsibility as a board member is to stay above political influence.

"I'm most hopeful of being approved," Price said. "I hope I will be approved so I can continue to serve. I've given a lot of my precious time to The Citadel and I truly love the school."

Goldfinch said if the efforts fail that "sending a bloody Fred Price back to the board serves a purpose."

Citadel spokesman John Dorrian said Goldfinch's maneuvers could have serious ramifications, such as affecting accreditation which could mean losing important federal aid for the historic military college.

"Anytime there is a perception that a high-level politician is putting undue influence on a board, it's cause for concern," Dorrian said.

Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly is a political reporter based in Charleston. He also covers the military community and veterans throughout South Carolina. Previously, he wrote for the Courier Journal in Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.

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