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SLED investigating fired state agency chief after her husband's firm won $600K contract

Amy Cofield (copy) (copy)

Former State Accident Fund Executive Director Amy Cofield potentially broke state ethics laws in helping to shepherd lucrative government work to her husband’s company, according to a report by the state inspector general. File/Provided

COLUMBIA — South Carolina's top law enforcement agency is investigating a former state agency chief who was fired by the governor after her agency awarded a $600,000 contract to her husband's company.

The State Law Enforcement Division opened its investigation into former State Accident Fund Executive Director Amy Cofield last month at the request of the state Attorney General's Office, SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby told The Post and Courier.

SLED began the criminal probe April 23, the day after state Inspector General Brian Lamkin released an investigative report concluding Cofield had potentially broken state law by helping her husband's firm win a lucrative two-year contract with her agency.

Crosby confirmed the agency's investigation is focused on that Jan. 6 information technology contract, which the State Accident Fund awarded to a company that planned to hire Cofield's husband, Jimmy Terrapin, for the work.

Cofield, a labor attorney from Lexington, has adamantly denied she did anything wrong and unsuccessfully petitioned Gov. Henry McMaster to give her back her $135,280-a-year job. Her attorney, Jim Griffin, blasted Lamkin's report, saying it took Cofield's actions out of context and jumped to conclusions without sufficient evidence.

In a text message May 4, Cofield said she is an "open book" and that her agency followed the instructions of state purchasing officials as they hired her husband's firm. She said she didn't realize SLED had opened an investigation.

Cofield said the investigation should reveal that the entire matter was concocted by Tommy Windsor, a former deputy of McMaster who later worked in her office, and Trey Walker, the governor's chief of staff, to get back at her for demoting Windsor.

"THAT, my friend, is the truth," Cofield wrote.

McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes called that allegation "absolutely preposterous."

Windsor, who works as the State Accident Fund's public affairs manager, declined to comment.

Griffin, Cofield's attorney, said he finds it "highly irregular" that SLED would confirm the existence of an ongoing investigation. He doesn't think the agency will find wrongdoing by his client.

"I've looked at it," Griffin said. "I don't think there's anything there."

The inspector general's 17-page report last month concluded Cofield helped her husband win the contract with her agency by supplying him inside information and failing to recuse herself from the contract selection.

The report cited emails between Cofield and her husband in December as the State Accident Fund was soliciting bids for the IT contract.

At that point, Cofield's husband, Terrapin, was planning to submit a bid. He had asked a company called Globalpundits to send the State Accident Fund a proposal and then hire him to do the work.

The report stated that Cofield forwarded her husband an email showing that another company — Random Bit — was planning to submit a competing bid.

Terrapin replied: “Yep, that’s Gerhard’s wife. Will we know her per hour rate in time to make sure ours comes under?”

And then Cofield responded: “Hopefully I don’t technically have to choose the lowest rate though. I just have to be able to explain why I did not.”

Cofield has repeatedly said her agency got permission from state purchasing officials to hire her husband's firm. Those officials said it wouldn't be a conflict of interest as long as she stayed out of the contract-selection process, Cofield said. 

Cofield has insisted she recused herself and didn't influence the process. Lamkin disagreed in his report.

Globalpundits ultimately won the contract after Random Bit declined to submit a bid. Globalpundits was, at that point, the only bidder — a fact that Cofield says bolsters her defense.

The State Accident Fund and Globalpundits mutually terminated their contract shortly after Cofield's firing in February, just a month after it was signed.

The SLED probe is at least the third state investigation into the $600,000 contract. The governor's office questioned the contract shortly after it was signed in January. McMaster asked the state Inspector General's Office to investigate on Feb. 8, the day he fired Cofield over potential conflicts of interest. And now SLED has initiated a criminal investigation based on the inspector general's findings.

Reach Avery Wilks at 803-374-3115. Follow him on Twitter at @AveryGWilks. Send tips to averywilks93@protonmail.com.

Projects reporter

Avery G. Wilks is an investigative reporter based in Columbia. The USC Honors College graduate was named the 2018 S.C. Journalist of the Year for his reporting on South Carolina's nuclear fiasco and abuses within the state's electric cooperatives.

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