Bid accepted for removal of decaying hulks

Part of this boat, which is made from cement, will be left in place when Folly Beach's effort to remove old, abandoned boats begins. Officials have been told that this old wreck attracts fish, and thus people who want to catch them.

Edward C. Fennell

COLUMBIA -- S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis on Thursday asked Gov. Nikki Haley for details about a meeting with the state's two top budget writers that raised questions about the state's open meetings law.

The governor is chairwoman of the state Budget and Control Board, a five-member panel that includes Loftis and oversees state financial decisions. On Tuesday, Haley met with two other board members, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh

Leatherman and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper.

South Carolina law bars meeting of public boards, including chance meetings, without public notice. With Haley and the two budget chairmen together, a majority of the financial oversight board had gathered.

Cooper said it probably was a mistake to have a majority of the board together. "I'm not sure they were thinking about that. They are new to this," the Piedmont Republican said.

"I don't know what was discussed," Loftis said. "We're going to ask for minutes of the meeting."

Loftis said meetings should be open and accessible to the public.

"I'm concerned about the appearance of things," he said.

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the meeting didn't involve Budget and Control Board business.

"The governor has long said she will be active in the budget writing process," Godfrey said.

She called the meeting with budget writers and the state's Medicaid director "to lay out some of our administration's solutions to next year's health care budget shortfall. It's no secret that we're entering a brutal budget year, and the governor will continue to meet with anyone and everyone necessary to get the people of our state through it."

The Medicaid program's budget problems include a $228 million deficit that the Budget and Control Board will consider next week. It is expected to face a $663 million shortfall in the budget year that begins July 1.

Cooper said the board's handling of the deficit wasn't discussed.