Indicates Matter Stricken
Indicates New Matter
The Senate assembled at 11:00 A.M., the hour to which it stood adjourned and was called to order by the ACTING PRESIDENT, Senator JACKSON.
TO: The Clerk of the Senate
The Clerk of the House
FROM: C. Tyrone Courtney, Chairman
Jt. Legislative Screening Committee to Review Candidates
for the SC Consumer Affairs Commission
DATE: May 6, 1997
In compliance with the provisions of Act No. 119, 1975 S.C. Acts 122, it is respectfully requested that the following information be printed in the Journals of the Senate and the House.
/s/Senator C. Tyrone Courtney, Chairman /s/Rep. George Bailey
/s/Senator Robert W. Hayes, Jr. /s/Rep. James N. Law
/s/Senator Glenn G. Reese /s/Rep. Teddy N. Trotter
/s/Senator Dick Elliott /s/Rep. Willie B. McMahand
The Screening Process
Pursuant to Act No. 119 of 1975 and Act. No. 181 of 1993, this Committee has considered the qualifications of candidates seeking election to the positions of the South Carolina Consumer Affairs Commission.
The Committee's report includes the Transcript of the Proceedings before the Screening Committee on April 30, 1997. The Transcript does not include all exhibits offered by candidates or witnesses at the hearing because of the length of some exhibits. Exhibits which are not reproduced as a part of the Transcript may be viewed in the Office of the Banking and Insurance Committee (Room 203 of the Gressette Building), since these exhibits were reviewed and considered by the Committee in making its findings.
CHAIRMAN: Good morning everyone. We'd like to welcome you all here this morning. I'm going to go ahead and open up our meeting. We have Senator Hayes with us from York County, Representative McMahand here also, who are on the Screening Committee. We have some other House members who are in other meetings this morning. Some of those will be coming and going, and so will my colleagues here, unfortunately I'll be here with you the whole time, so we'll try to get you in and out. These things don't take very long, but we do have to have a little information and background. What we're going to try to do is take about 10 minutes or so apiece individually and bring you in, and then after we question you, you'll be able to leave at that time. We'll do it alphabetically. We don't know any better way to do it than that. Hopefully, we're going to be able to get a report out sometime next week, maybe Tuesday or maybe Wednesday, but our staff will get in touch with you and let you know and you need to understand that you cannot seek commitments from any legislator until the report has been filed. But he will notify each one of you personally when that report is filed, and then from that point on you can call legislators and have friends call legislators, however you're going to manage your campaign, to ask for commitments for you. The election of course is on May 21st and so I guess that's pretty much the long and short of how the process works. We appreciate so much interest in this position. It's refreshing to see that we have so many qualified people who are interested in serving in consumer affairs in South Carolina, so we thank you for applying and wish each one of you good luck. And so what we'll do at this time is ask Mr. Carter ... he's the first one alphabetically ... to remain and ask the rest of you if you could to stand outside for a little bit. Those who are on farther down the list, if you want to run to the canteen or restroom or something, you certainly have plenty of time to do that. We'll try to not keep you any longer than we have to. Thank you. Mr. Carter, if you'll have a seat there.
MR. GRIFFIN: Okay, I guess Mr. Carter is not here. I'm Reese Griffin.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Griffin?
MR. GRIFFIN: Yes.
CHAIRMAN: We'll double the questions on you then to make up for Mr. Carter.
MR. GRIFFIN - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mr. Griffin, we have a little bit of summary on each candidate of course and you've provided a lot of information for us. Generally I'd like to just hear from you a little bit about why you're interested in consumer affairs, you know, what brought your attention to it and so forth and just what you'd like to do in that position.
A: Okay, first of all I do have a strong love and commitment for the state of South Carolina. I'm a native Georgian, but my mother is a native South Carolinian and I've spent a good part of my life here as well as other places. So first of all, I do have a strong interest in the state and in the public affairs of the state.
Q: How long have you lived here?
A: I have currently been in Beaufort for five years. I lived in Spartanburg up until 1961 and then the family was relocated up north and then I returned here and have been in Beaufort since 1992.
Q: Well, Spartanburg's not a bad place to be from. I serving for Spartanburg, but ...
A: No, it's not, right. I really enjoyed living in Spartanburg. My dad was on the faculty at Wofford there.
Q: Oh, okay. How long did he teach there?
A: He taught there from '56 to '61.
Q: I graduated from Wofford College.
A: My interest in consumer affairs stems primarily I think from my experience as an educator. I have been an educator for approximately the last 18, 19 years. I have taught in public secondary schools, I have taught in private trade vocational schools and I'm currently an adjunct instructor at Technical College of the Lowcountry in Beaufort. I have taught a wide range of subjects, everything from ... my main area is automotive technology, but I've also taught history, psychology, reading and even home economics. Now, in home economics, part of the curriculum is consumer issues, is consumerism if you want to say, as how to deal with the marketplace and everything from food shopping to home shopping and all such as that. Also, in the automotive area, there's a good bit of consumer issues there. My research indicates that the Department of Consumer Protection in South Carolina, the last year that they had statistics available, which was fiscal year I believe '93-'94, almost 25 percent of their complaints, formal complaints and activities, were related to automotive issues. So I feel that probably my strongest contribution to the committee would be my knowledge of the automotive industry and also my interest that the image of the automotive industry is in need of some work and some improvement and would like to be able to participate in helping both consumers and businesses to work out some of those issues, and hopefully my expertise in that area would be a positive contribution to the commission.
Q: Well, no doubt about automotive industry has its share of consumer concerns anyway and certainly having an inside into that is not going to hurt you any. What do you feel like the role of the Consumer Affairs Commission is? How do you view it and where do you think you could help the state or the people of the state with in serving in that capacity?
A: The primary function I see is advice and consent to the legislature and to the Department of Consumer Affairs. Beyond that, again just I think ordinary citizens participating in government I believe is probably the key point there, that I am a consumer, I am a citizen. I'm not a professional politician or anything of that type, and as a citizen, I am interested in participating in government.
CHAIRMAN: Questions from the committee?
Q: Mr. Griffin, do you view your role there as being an advocate for the consumer or for industry or mutual or how would you see that?
A: I feel that I could provide a balanced consideration. Obviously I am a consumer, as are we all, and therefore from the consumer's point of view, I would have some input, but I have worked and am currently working in private industry and I am aware of the importance of business and industry in the economic growth and development of the state, so I feel that I could look upon issues and look upon questions with a balanced approach, both from the consumer's point of view and from the point of view of business and industry.
Q: Do you have any questions of us?
A: No, sir, not at the moment.
Q: Any questions for staff?
MR. BELL: I would just ask you, has there been any change in circumstances since you've filed your economic interest statement or filled out your personal questionnaire that you'd like to disclose at this time?
A: No, there has not.
MR. BELL: Thank you, sir.
Q: Mr. Griffin, I'm an attorney and claim that I practice law, but I forgot to swear you or have you sworn before you testified, so I'm going to ask the staff to swear you at this time and just ask you to affirm that everything that you've told us has been the truth if you would do that, James. I'm sorry.
MR. BELL: Do you affirm that everything that you have testified to the committee today is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
A: I do.
MR. BELL: Thank you, sir.
Q: Well, if there are no other questions, we appreciate you coming and you're certainly very well-prepared it looks like. You have a great background. Your educational background looks very good and you have a lot of points I think that would be of interest to the legislature, senators and the House members. And like I said, we have nine people so we're kind of bringing them in and out. I don't want you to take how much time you have in here with us, if you consider it a little bit of time or a whole lot of time, to mean anything at all. We simply find whether you're qualified to run or not. We don't really make any recommendation to the legislature at all as to who is the best candidate or anything like that. We'll simply find you qualified or unqualified and then you're on your own as far as that goes. Senator York?
SENATOR HAYES: Your schedule is such that you wouldn't have any trouble attending meetings? You're flexible enough that you can attend?
A: I should have no ... they're generally evening meetings or afternoon meetings. I do have ... I have a very flexible schedule in my current position. My primary function ... I'm with Two Stroke International Engine Company. I am supervisor of the technical publications and I'm in and out all kinds of odd hours. I mean I could go in at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning and get my work done, so I am very flexible and my employer is very flexible, so I do not perceive any problems in attending meetings.
Q: All right, Mr. Griffin. Thank you very much and you're free to leave, and as I said, we'll try to have this report out sometime about the middle of next week. The staff will be in touch with you personally. I'm sure they have the information how to get in touch with you.
Q: Once you receive the information that it has been filed, you're free then to contact legislators and seek commitments.
A: Okay, thank you very much.
Q: Not until that time. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Henderson, I want to thank you again for coming and thank you for your interest. Consumer Affairs is certainly an important agency here in South Carolina because it represents the consumers in this state and its problems that they may have because it's kind of the little guy sometimes against the big guys and they're not on equal footing sometimes and this agency does a great job and the consumer advocate does a great job in representing them before the legislature also in the legislation that we consider. Before we start ... we're just going to have a few questions, it won't take very long ... but we would like to put you under oath before we begin.
MR. LANDRUM H. HENDERSON, JR., having been duly sworn, testifies as follows:
MR. HENDERSON - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mr. Henderson, to begin with, just tell us a little bit about how you got interested in the Consumer Affairs position and why you feel like you'd like to serve in that capacity.
A: Okay. Of course, I saw the announcement in The State paper and I've always liked to try to be involved anyplace I've lived. I've moved around a lot in my job in a management and financial services business. But I'm a South Carolina native and hopefully I know I'm going to be here now until I retire in the next 15 or 20 years, so I want to get even more involved deeper. But I have dealt with consumers my whole 23 years in my career in the financial services industry. I was at first a stockbroker for seven years. The last 16 years I have been in management. My job is to train and manage people to make sure that our clients, which are our consumers, are treated fairly in every way, shape and form, and their needs and what is best for that client is always kept in the forefront, before the brokers. Also, I'm an NASD arbitrator which is very similar to what we're talking about right now. An NASD arbitrator is the National Association of Security Dealers. When a client, a consumer, has a complaint against a financial services industry representative ... could be a brokerage firm, a bank or whatever ... felt like they have not been treated fairly, they bring it before a panel and the panel consists of two outside people ... it could be a lawyer and some other person of another industry ... plus the industry representative. Me, I of course would be the industry representative. And that committee is really designed to protect the consumer, at least hear the complaint and make sure they have been treated fairly; if they've not been treated fairly, make sure they are awarded the proper amount of monies that make them whole.
Q: How long have you been doing that?
A: I have been an NASD arbitrator for about two years now.
Q: Have you heard many cases?
A: Just two so far, yes, sir. I've been to a lot of training, but only two cases.
Q: Well, that's good. I mean not any complaints apparently. How do you feel that you can help the state in the role of consumer affairs? What do you see your role as being?
A: My role as I see it if I was on the Consumer Affairs Commission is to make sure the consumer is protected from like, as you said, the big guy versus the little guy, because about in every case, the consumer ... in all cases is only the little person, not the big person. My job would be to make sure if they're not treated fairly, that it's remedied, and the person who had not treated them fairly would be dealt with accordingly. A consumer can be misled in many ways as we all know by television, newspaper ads and now the internet and things of that nature. It's gotten even bigger.
Q: Did you become interested on your own? I mean you just happened to see that this position had come available or did anyone encourage you to do it?
A: No, sir, I saw it in the paper on my own, yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN: Questions from committee members?
SENATOR HAYES: Other than just what you've told us, do you have any other knowledge of the Department of Consumer Affairs or any agenda for what needs to be done?
A: Now, I know what their job is. Department of Consumer Affairs of course regulates anyone in the consumer credit industry and of course enforces the Consumer Protection Code. They're also the public advocate in hearings for regulatory agencies for control as you well know the utilities. They represent the public there. They are involved in licensing of pawn brokers, loan brokers, sport fitness centers, sports agents, long-term care facilities, staff leasing. I mean to me they cover a big gamut of what goes on in everyday life in this state.
SENATOR HAYES: Do you have an agenda on anything that needs to be done as far as what's not being done or anything of that sort?
A: Not that I'm particularly aware at this time, no, sir.
MR. MCMAHAND: Let me ask you, Mr. Henderson, what about your work schedule? Do you think you'll be able to meet the meetings without any problems?
A: Yes, sir, my schedule is fairly flexible. I'm a district director for Financial Securities, and where I serve as now, I am housed here and live here and work here day to day in Columbia, in fact right down the street here. I travel around to some of my other offices in the state and a couple in Georgia more or less at my convenience or when they may necessarily need something for me to be there for, so my schedule is very, very, very flexible, yes, sir. If I didn't feel like I could make not just most of the meetings, all of the meetings, I wouldn't put my name in the hat because if you can't be there, you don't need to be on the committee in my opinion.
Q: Mr. Henderson, tell us a little bit about your relationship with the Treasurer's Office, unclaimed securities and so forth if you would.
A: Yes, sir. The Treasurer's Office a few months back just ... I went out to all these securities and banks about the unclaimed properties division. They would have a lot of securities that would be claimed and some unclaimed, but the ones claimed ... say something that you owned and you saw your name in the paper, they need some broker transfer agent to take that security and re-register it in your name and ship it out to them, and that's basically what we're doing. They find someone that claims a security, they bring it over to our office, my operations department re-registers and ships it out to that person. There would be a point in time unclaimed securities, which just are not unclaimed, I guess after what, a three-year period ... is that what it is, I think? They would dispose those securities, sell the securities, which they would do through my office and we would issue checks to the state.
Q: Is it only your office that handles those for the Treasurer's Office?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: How do you get that contract? Is that by bid?
A: One of my financial advisors, Fred Quattlebaum, actually put a proposal. It wasn't actually a bid, I guess you could call it a bid, but it's a proposal that was quite extent to the state as did most all firms in the city and they chose us.
Q: Do you have any questions?
A: I don't believe so. I think I've read enough. I think they meet once a month normally. Could be more than that as far as the commission. I've read a lot about what type of involvement they have been in and it seems to be very, very, very interesting. And I was listening a little while back, you said that it would be announced next Tuesday or Wednesday and the election on May 21st?
Q: What we'll do, and I tell each candidate, we don't recommend anyone. All we do is either find you qualified or unqualified to run for the position.
Q: And so we will make that decision and I'm sure for most people there's not going to be a problem as far as being qualified, and then we'll hopefully have the report out next Tuesday or Wednesday. The staff will call you personally and tell you that it has been filed, and as soon as you hear that, you're able to call legislators and seek commitments for yourself at that time. You cannot do that until that is filed and you're notified of that. That will get you in trouble.
A: Yes, sir.
Q: But we'll call you just as soon as that's done. I would approximate that to be probably Wednesday.
A: Middle of next week, all right, sir. And the election is the 21st ...
A: ... of May, okay. All right, sir.
Q: Again, I just want to thank you for your interest. It's good to see this number of people interested, and not only that, but there's a number of very qualified people. What I've seen so far is good qualified people with good backgrounds and all and we just appreciate you being here and having the interest that you do.
A: Well, I appreciate the committee's time and thank you a lot.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Henderson.
A: You have a good day.
Q: You too.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacInnis?
MR. MACINNIS: Yes, sir, good morning.
CHAIRMAN: Good morning. Have a seat there, please. Before we begin, we do need to put you under oath, so I'll ask you to raise your hand and the court reporter will swear you.
B.J. MACINNIS, having been duly sworn and testified as follows:
MR. MACINNIS - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mr. MacInnis, again we appreciate your interest in this position. I appreciate you taking the time to come here and offer your time to serve the state of South Carolina. It's an important position. Before we really ask you any real questions about it, we'd just like to hear from you why you became interested in the position and what you feel your role would be serving on the Consumer Affairs Commission.
A: I became aware of the position through a friend who had seen I think an article in The State newspaper. I had expressed over the last few years some desire to work in the public sector. I've had a real supportive company that I have left and retired from just recently, very supportive of our work with charities, etcetera, but I didn't have an opportunity to get into the public sector, and when this became available, I decided that that was a good time to go ahead and try to see if I could have an opportunity to serve and to represent the public.
Q: What do you think would be your role? If you're elected to serve on the commission, what would be your role on that?
A: I have a great deal of background in the management and team- building efforts that we did within the company that I retired from. I think that I would be able to offer a lot there. I'd also be able to offer a statewide approach because I've dealt with and served our constituents, our customers from South Carolina Pipeline in 44 of the 46 counties of the state.
Q: What do you see the Consumer Affairs agency ... what does it do? Why do we even have it?
A: Well, I think that the commission on the policy-making and that authority that is granted to the commission to then go to the Department of Consumer Affairs is to protect the public, to provide the public with reasonable assurance that the goods and services that they purchase in the state are safe and are able to be used by them.
Q: Did anything happen to you personally that made you want to do this? I mean you're not mad at any company or anything like that that's happened?
A: No, sir.
CHAIRMAN: Does the committee have any questions to ask?
SENATOR HAYES: You are retired now from SCANA?
A: Yes, sir. It was one of the SCANA subsidiaries.
SENATOR HAYES: Other than what you've told us, do you have any agenda as far as what you think should be done or shouldn't be done by Department of Consumer Affairs?
A: Well, I think just from the ... I have knowledge of the Department of Consumer Affairs through the Public Service Commission, the CA's office, with their work down at the Public Service Commission. I think that from my limited knowledge that I would like to see the CA a little bit more visible and I'd like to see them involved in a few more things.
SENATOR HAYES: I have just one other question. Being retired, you wouldn't have any trouble attending the meetings I don't believe?
A: No, sir. That's why again, just to be able to have that time.
CHAIRMAN: Any other questions from the committee?
SENATOR HAYES: I notice you flew helicopters, is that right?
A: Yes, sir.
SENATOR HAYES: Did you do that for your work?
A: Well, after I got out of the service, I took helicopter lessons locally in Saluda, South Carolina, and then John Warren, who was president of the company, decided that we needed a helicopter to patrol the right of way and over 1700 miles of high-pressure line in the state, and in 1973, the company bought the first. When I left, we had four helicopters. I got to fly it for about three and a half years and then in a limited basis until I retired, a very enjoyable part of my work.
SENATOR HAYES: Most people who fly fly fixed wing. You don't see a lot of helicopters outside the military.
A: Yes, sir, that's correct.
Q: Have you ever had any contact at all with Consumer Affairs?
A: Only through ... and at that time, it was Mr. Hamm at the Public Service Commission, and it was not a direct contact. I was in the operations side of it, not in the rates or any side that would be on the Public Service Commission other than from the safety issue.
Q: Do you have any questions you would like to ask the committee?
A: No, sir.
Q: Well, again we appreciate your interest, and frankly, including yourself, I'm really impressed with the quality of the people that have shown interest in this position.
A: Thank you.
Q: We had nine people apply and they seem to be very qualified and very interested in the position for the right reasons. So what we will do is make a finding of either qualified or unqualified. We don't actually make a recommendation of any one candidate or anything like that at all.
A: Yes, sir.
Q: So we'll make that finding and hopefully we'll have that report filed about Wednesday of next week. As soon as that is done, the staff here will get in touch with you personally and let you know, and at that time you are able to contact legislators for commitments to vote for you. You cannot do that until you're notified that the report has been filed.
A: I understand, yes, sir.
Q: And other than that, we again thank you for coming and we'll be in touch as soon as that has been filed.
A: Thank you. I appreciate everybody's time this morning.
MR. MAYRANT: Good morning.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Mayrant, how are you doing today?
MR. MAYRANT: Fine, thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Good. Do you pronounce your last name Mayrant?
MR. MAYRANT: Mayrant, that's correct.
CHAIRMAN: Before we begin, Mr. Mayrant, I'm going to ask you to raise your right hand and let our reporter here swear you under oath.
LOUIS MAYRANT, JR., having been duly sworn and testified as follows:
MR. MAYRANT - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mr. Mayrant, thank you again for coming. We have been really impressed so far and continue to be that we have so many really qualified people seeking this position. It is refreshing to see that and we appreciate you coming and your interest in it. And just to being with, we'd just like to hear a little bit from you about why you're interested in this position, how you became interested in it and what you feel like you can do, how you can help the state of South Carolina serving as a member of the commission.
A: I became interested in this position because I've been working in the field. I've worked in several different areas. I've been a consumer all my life. I've also been in the management and the retail business and I've been in the education department and I feel that I can serve well because I can really add something to the department. I believe in education and I feel like this is a helping profession and that's what I'm doing. I'm getting my master's in counseling education at South Carolina State University at present and I feel with the knowledge and the experience and the background that I'm going through that I can be a very great asset to this department. As I said, the department is concerned with helping people, serving the consumer, and trying to encourage fairness among the consumer at the same time with the merchants. And I've been in the merchant position also a merchant and I feel that I could bridge that little gap between there to make a better relationship, make my community better, the state, and the country a better country.
Q: Well, it's important that anyone serving in this position have an understanding of course of what consumers undergo and the kind of problems that they encounter out there sometimes when they are treated unfairly or at least they feel they're treated unfairly and so forth. But having a knowledge of what the merchant sees also is important, so that's good that you have a perspective from both sides. What do you see the role of the commission to be though? Do you see it as a consumer protector or do you see it as a neutral type of relationship or how do you view that?
A: Well, I view ... the consumer commission's job is to really look at all aspects of it, to really evaluate, to review and pass the decision on certain aspects of, you know, what's going on with the consumers out there. Otherwise, you have to really diagnose the problem first, not take side with either one to say, you know, this person is incorrect or either the merchant is always wrong. You have to really balance and weigh both sides and come up with a reasonable answer, you know, that will be comfortable for everybody because we want to make our state a better state, better community.
CHAIRMAN: Questions from the committee?
MR. MCMAHAND: I have one, I guess, and that relates to meeting the meetings.
A: Meetings what?
MR. MCMAHAND: Meeting the meetings, your schedule. Can you meet whenever the commission is going to meet?
A: Yes, sir, I have no problem with that. I basically work with a membership organization and we work by appointments and most of them are in the evening time, you know, when people are home, so it's not an eight to five job. I have a lot of free time and I can basically work my schedule anyway I want to.
Q: Mr. Mayrant, we've asked the others the same question. Do you have anything that's happened to you that maybe gives you any ax to grind or anything like that, anything bad that you feel has happened to you that would make you interested in the position other than just wanting to serve?
A: I haven't had anything bad happen to me that, you know, really prompted me to seek this position. I think that as a citizen of America, I'm very interested in helping. I'm very interested to see that we have a better community, a better state, and when you are a go-getter or a leader, then you can't sit back and just hold your hands, so I'm very motivated and I feel with this position I could help a lot of people; not only help, but try to bridge the gap between both aspects of it.
CHAIRMAN: Any other questions?
Q: Well, again, I want to thank you for your interest, and every time somebody comes in I'm just like a broken record, but we're just really impressed with the quality of the people that have applied for this position and we're glad to see that we have some really quality people that are interested. And what we do, our role is not to recommend any one person or persons for the position. We simply make findings of whether you are qualified to seek the position or not and we'll do that hopefully by Wednesday of next week. Until that time, you cannot seek commitments from any legislators. That would be a violation of the rules. But hopefully we'll have that done about Wednesday and the staff will contact you personally to tell you that the report has been filed, and then once it is, you're free then to contact any senator or House member to seek that commitment for you. And we just wish you the best of luck and again thank you that you're willing to give your time to this, because serving in a position like this is an honor, but I assure you it's a great responsibility and it does take sacrifice in serving if you do it right. But we want to thank you for coming and thank you for your interest and we'll get in touch with you sometime about the middle of next week.
A: I thank you all for really considering me for this position. Thank you all. You all have a good day.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Powell?
MR. POWELL: Yes.
CHAIRMAN: How are you doing, sir?
MR. POWELL: Fine. You?
CHAIRMAN: Good, thank you. Before we begin, I'm going to ask our court reporter to put you under oath and so if you will, just face her and raise your right hand, please.
AUBREY L. POWELL, having been duly sworn and testified as follows:
MR. POWELL - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mr. Powell, we appreciate you coming today and we appreciate your interest in this position and your willingness to serve and give your time. I see on your summary here that you graduated from Limestone College?
Q: Is that through an outreach type program of some kind?
A: They had a course in Columbia. They taught in Columbia through the university and I've got an associate's degree from Midlands Tech.
Q: Well, I went to Limestone one summer school when I first got out of high school is the reason I ask and I grew up in Gaffney where Limestone is located.
A: Got a beautiful campus up there.
Q: Tell us a little bit about how you became interested in this position and why you'd like to serve?
A: Well, I've been a consumer for a long time and I have ... I think we all think that there's something that can be done better. Being consumers, we often have complaints. There are good things and bad points and I think since I retired three and a half years ago, I've been wanting to serve the county and the state and city where I live, you know, in a better capacity. I was an unsuccessful candidate for Lexington County School Board Five last year and that intrigued my interest in government affairs, and I've served on several committees and so forth for the school district and I'm a volunteer in a number of organizations. This is where I've spent most of my time since I retired, in volunteering where I think I can be most effective.
Q: You worked for the South Carolina Tax Commission for several years?
Q: What was your position there?
A: I was an auditor supervisor and handled a lot of taxpayers' problems, complaints, questions and so forth. This is what I did most of the years.
Q: Taxpayer complaints?
Q: Resolving problems they had, that kind of thing?
Q: What would you see your role as being as a member of the commission?
A: An advocate for justice, a person that could in my own unique way try to solve some of the situations that might arise to try to be a ... try to resolve things that are problems for people. And we often have complaints and so forth that we think are complaints and they can be resolved by mediation, by sitting down and talking or by some other means rather than going to legal ramifications.
Q: Have you ever had any contact with the consumer advocate in the past?
A: I've filed a few complaints, some successful and in my favor, and some against me, so ...
Q: What kind of complaints just in general?
A: Just minor complaints whenever I felt I'd been done an injustice. And I had a big complaint which settled in the other person's favor, which I still think I was right with a Columbia business and I think they're paying the price of it now because, you know, the things I said was true and it's proven to be true by the way they treat customers now.
Q: How long has it been since you've had a complaint with the commission?
A: About four years.
Q: Would you mind describing what you felt like and how you were treated and so forth when those complaints were filed?
A: I bought a computer from a local business and they did not live up to the warranty. They said certain things about, you know, taking the computer apart and having it repaired. They didn't want at that time to even look at the machine and the parts which they manufactured were not new parts, they were used parts by other people have told me since then, and it is a business that I would have no dealings with today.
Q: But I mean what I was asking you is as far as your dealings with the consumer advocate.
A: Oh, very good. I found the people to be very helpful, very willing to assist you in any way possible and I found the people ... although, you know, all the things I've ... few I've filed have not been in my favor, I appreciated the action. And for the people of South Carolina to have such a committee or commission on this type of thing for the consumer and also for the public I think is very important and I think we are miles above others, other states that I've seen and heard.
CHAIRMAN: Questions from the committee or staff?
Q: Mr. Powell, you are retired, so I assume you have available time and all?
A: Yes, and I'm one of those people that have to keep out of my wife's way so that I can continue to live.
Q: She's pulling for you real strongly I assume then?
Q: Well, again, we just want to thank you that you are interested in the position and tell you how impressed we are so far with the people that we've seen, that we have such quality people that are interested. Of course, as of right now, you cannot seek commitments from any legislator.
A: You cannot?
Q: You cannot. You can't do that until the report has been filed and that should be done about Wednesday of next week. Once it is filed, the staff will call you personally to tell you that it is filed and that you are free at that time to seek commitments. It's all right to send out information and so forth, but you cannot actually ask for anybody to vote or anybody to commit to help you in any way as far as a legislator goes.
A: I'm glad you told me that because I was getting ready to start on it today.
Q: No, sir, you would be in violation of the rules and that would get you in trouble. We hopefully will have this out though Wednesday of next week and then the election is not until the 21st, so that will give you two weeks. Everybody will be on legal ground at that point as far as seeking commitments and all, so as soon as we make that decision, we'll contact you as I said and let you know and then you're free to start doing that. Our role in this is not to pick who we think is the best candidate or anything like that at all. We don't make a recommendation to the legislature. We simply either find you qualified to run for the position or unqualified, and then once we make that decision, we file it and we notify you on that point. So you should hear from us probably Wednesday of next week, okay? Do you have any questions?
A: No. I would enjoy serving on this committee and whether I'm selected or not, I thank you for the opportunity to come here today and I look forward to serving.
Q: We do appreciate you coming and you being willing to serve and we wish you the best of luck.
A: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Preston?
MR. PRESTON: Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN: How are you doing, sir?
MR. PRESTON: Real good.
CHAIRMAN: Good. Have a seat there, make yourself comfortable. Before we begin, we need to place you under oath, so I'll ask you to face the court reporter there and she'll swear you in.
MR. PRESTON: Do I need to stand?
CHAIRMAN: No, you can just sit will be fine.
WILLIAM RAY PRESTON, having been duly sworn and testified as follows:
MR. PRESTON - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mr. Preston, these people here are going to get tired of hearing me say it, but I want to tell you that we're really impressed so far with the quality of people that are interested in this position and we appreciate your interest in this position and the willingness to serve and the background that we see in your summary here. We'd really like to hear from you a little bit about how you became interested in the position and why you would like to serve.
A: I stumbled onto it actually in the newspaper. I saw it in there and I had an interest to be of service to the public and I actually thought that the Consumer Affairs Commission would be a good avenue for me given my background. I have 18 years experience in insurance, sales and underwriting and I deal with the general public on a daily basis. So I thought that given the two, they would go good together and it would give me that opportunity to do that public service that I wanted to do.
Q: How do you feel you would contribute? What do you see the role of the commission being?
A: I see it being a consumer advocate. I see it where the consumer is coming to the commission as a last ditch effort to make something right that they feel was done wrong, either in a service or a product that they were involved in. I see the commission trying to set some examples of how they feel things should be handled with the consumer, maintaining the high quality of life in South Carolina based on maintaining a high moral business attitude.
Q: It sounds like you see it as being consumer-oriented, your position there.
A: I see it as a two-way street. I see it as it's got to be for business, too. So in answer to your question, no, it would be both ways.
Q: I notice in your summary that you have worked with the volunteer fire department. Where was that?
A: That was in Illinois.
Q: I was mayor of a town for about 10 years and I worked with the volunteer fire department, good and bad, but tell me a little bit about that.
A: My exposure there was a small town outside the city that I actually lived in and basically it was brush fires, small house fires. There was nothing of any ...
Q: But you were an actual volunteer fireman?
A: I was an actual volunteer fireman?
Q: I really respect people who do that and that's a real commitment and a lot of sacrifice and of course exposure and I appreciate that in a person that does that. My department, of course they didn't understand sometimes why we didn't have the money to build new buildings and buy three or four new trucks and all that from time to time, but we got along well and they did a great job. But I do respect people who are willing to donate their time like that for that. Do you have any questions from us?
A: No, I don't.
Q: What we're doing of course is not trying to make a determination as to who the best candidate is or anything like that. That's not our role. We simply find you qualified to run for the position or unqualified. Once we make that finding and file that, then you're free to seek commitments from members of the Senate and members of the House to vote for you. You cannot do that until that report has been filed. That would be a violation of the rules, okay?
Q: So we will hopefully have that out about the middle of next week. We're looking at Wednesday we hope, but we will call you. Either James here or some member of the staff will call you to tell you that the report has been filed, and then once it has, then you're free to call and seek commitments at that time.
Q: Again, thanks for your interest.
A: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Do you have any questions, Mr. McMahand?
MR. MCMAHAND: No.
Q: And we wish you the best of luck and just appreciate you willing to offer for the position.
A: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Mrs. Ross?
MRS. ROSS: Yes.
CHAIRMAN: Have a seat there and make yourself comfortable. How are you doing this morning?
MRS. ROSS: Fine. How are you?
CHAIRMAN: Good. Thank you for coming this morning.
MRS. ROSS: Sure.
CHAIRMAN: Before we begin, this won't take long and it won't hurt. We'd just like to put you under oath, so if you will face the court reporter, she'll administer the oath to you.
KATHY KERN ROSS, having been duly sworn and testified as follows:
MRS. ROSS - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mrs. Ross, I think I have told everyone so far how impressed we are with the quality of the applicants. It's refreshing to see people with the backgrounds that each of you so far have had and such an interest in this position, and I think every candidate has had either a master's degree or is working on one and that's good to see and we're happy to see that. So thank you for being willing to serve and being willing to dedicate your time because it is a sacrifice. Before we ask you any real questions, would you tell us a little bit about how you became interested in the position and why you want to submit to that sacrifice?
A: Well, throughout my adult life I've always had a strong interest in consumer affairs. I try to become educated in things in that area. I believe in education of the consumer and also the empowerment of the consumer to excel in the area of consumer affairs. I believe that I'm an organized person and a detail-oriented person, so I think as far as the committee goes, I would be able to serve and be very successful in that position. And I'm just a regular citizen; not that anybody isn't, but I'm just an average person and I can bring my background and my experiences and shed some light maybe where other people haven't seen.
Q: Well, you're obviously a very bright person, a 3.8 GPA in your MA degree I think is very impressive. You are it looks like in the fine arts area of entertainment or theater or what are you ...
A: Currently I am the president of Kaleidoscope Entertainment, Incorporated. It's an entertainment company. We book entertainers for colleges, for their student activities around the country as well as for local corporations and company picnics, things like that. We book entertainers for conventions, lectures, things like that.
Q: That's here in Columbia?
A: Here in Columbia, yes. It's a home office, actually, which is another aspect I think would enlighten the committee somewhat, is somebody that's working out of their home now. I think that's an emerging area. I also believe strongly in volunteering your time for your community and giving back to your community and I feel that it's important for everybody in the community to do that and I'm able at this time to dedicate my time and my energies and my efforts towards that.
Q: That was a question that was going to be coming up in a minute is how flexible is your work schedule so that you can make meetings and so forth.
A: Very flexible. I run my own company, so I don't have to ask for time off. I set my own calendar. I don't have a problem with traveling if that needs be. I have no children and, you know, I can pretty much set my schedule and do what needs to be done.
Q: You've been active in Big Brothers/Big Sisters?
Q: How did you get involved in that?
A: I started actually back when I was in college and I started volunteering my time for that.
Q: Two of my daughters are involved in that. It's a good program. And I see you've got a CPR, Red Cross Lifesaving and so forth?
Q: What brought that?
A: I've been doing that since high school actually. I started as a lifeguard when I was 16 and I was working full time after school at the local Y and I continued through my college years. I was a lifeguard throughout college and then I actually ... my summers during college and actually graduate school, I was the waterfront director for a camp in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. And it was a 200 acre lake, it was an all-boys camp, and I was the waterfront director and it was a wonderful experience.
Q: How long have you been in South Carolina now?
A: Exactly four years in March.
Q: Gotten acclimated okay?
A: Yeah, I really like it.
Q: You haven't gotten the accent quite yet.
A: No, no.
Q: Do you have any questions about what you will be doing and so forth?
A: I actually had sent away for the government to get the Consumer Affair booklet and received that and I've been reading up on that and it's very enlightening. I understand that we would come to meetings about once a month, is that correct, and work closely with your representatives, is that true?
A: Well, you work with the consumer advocate and certainly set policy and so forth there, and he meets with different committees of the legislature and provides information and we review that.
Q: Do they directly handle concerns that consumers have had, any complaints or things like that?
A: The agency does and of course your role would not be directly involved in that, although you may from time to time hear from a citizen that has a particular problem. They may call upon you. That happens to us sometimes, you know, too, but it's not our direct responsibility. But it sounds like you're flexible enough that you can make meetings if they're called out of schedule and so forth?
Q: Have you ever had any contact with the consumer advocate in the past?
Q: And no complaints or anything against the agency?
Q: Had nothing happen personally that you have an ax to grind against any particular company or anything like that?
Q: Just interested in serving?
CHAIRMAN: Any other questions from the committee?
Q: Mrs. Ross, again, and I mean this sincerely, we appreciate that you are willing to serve. We appreciate the quality of people that we have that are interested here today. I just want to kind of reiterate to you that you cannot seek commitments at this time for the position. You can't do that until our findings are made and are filed. Our role is not to recommend anyone for the position. We simply find you qualified to run for the position or unqualified and we'll make that finding probably by Wednesday and file that report. When we file that, our staff here will contact you personally to tell you that it has been filed, and at that time you're free to contact senators and House members and to seek commitments for the position, okay? Don't do that until then. Don't want to get you in any trouble, okay?
A: Well, I appreciate your time and my consideration.
Q: Thank you again for coming. We appreciate it.
CHAIRMAN: Mr. Skipper, have a seat there and make yourself at home, sir.
MR. SKIPPER: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN: Before we begin, we need to place you under oath, so I'm going to ask you to face the court reporter and she'll put you under oath, please.
RONALD G. SKIPPER, having been duly sworn and testified as follows:
MR. SKIPPER - EXAMINATION BY THE CHAIRMAN:
Q: Mr. Skipper, this is no new role for you. You've been serving now for about two years I guess and you've been through the process, so you know what our role is and so forth. I guess since you have already been in the position, we'd just like to hear a little bit from you about what kind of job you think the commission is doing and the consumer advocate is doing.
A: During my first year, the advocate was elected by the commissioners, Mr. Phil Porter, and he has done an outstanding job, but I look at it as a team. There is Mr. Phil Porter and Mr. Herbert Walker. I think they together make that agency progress further, a lot further than what it's ever been. I have really enjoyed it. I look forward to going back in. The commission has made great headway in exposure in the lower state that I've had a part ... had the privilege of participating in getting that exposure of Consumer Affairs in the lower state.
Q: What is the role of the consumer advocate in your opinion?
A: The consumer advocate is the voice of the people in opposing or supporting private industry or utilities. Anything that would be contrary or detrimental to the consumers, the advocate is the voice of the consumer before the Public Service Commission. They speak in behalf of the consumers and the attorneys speak in behalf of, for instance, CP&L on a rate increase. If the Consumer Affairs Department feels that it's an unjustified increase, then our advocate would go over before the public service commission at a hearing and be the voice of the people.
Q: What is your role as a member of the commission?
A: As a commissioner, we receive reports, monthly reports from the staff of the Department of Consumer Affairs and we set policy that the staff implements. We get involved in decision-making when it comes to whether we're going to extend our support or extend our point of view in behalf of the consumers on a particular issue. That is a monthly meeting and that's where the decisions are made at.
Q: Do you see any areas that you think that the agency could improve?
A: With funding, there is great opportunity for improvement.
Q: If there were more funding, what kinds of things do you feel are needed to be done?
A: More staff. I have seen over the last three years the large increase of complaints by consumers across the state and they're still operating at the staff that they had as of five years ago.
Q: Are you seeing any particular pattern of complaints or area of complaints?
Q: What are those?
A: The most complaint month after month over the last three years has been with auto dealers. The second highest category is with financial institutions.
Q: Automobile dealers in that the car didn't work like they claim it should have or something?
A: Well, it covers from automobile dealers to automotive mechanics to rentals, anything to do with automotive. There's complaints about rental agreements, there's complaints ... since they got the lemon law passed, there's been an increase in that as the consumers become aware that they are protected under the lemon law and we're very thankful that the legislators passed that law. The second highest category is financial institutions and normally that has to do with interest rates. But we're seeing right now this year, and I know that you've seen it in the Columbia area, where you have these loan brokers. They are called car title loans. That's kind of getting around what the purpose of the automotive loan is for. People will take their title to the car and they don't actually take a lien against it, but they hold the title and they loan these people money. That is not entirely the correct way to do it and we are looking at that right now. As of our last meeting, we have seen 12 of these type of businesses pop up in this area, and in my area I have counted five, and they're springing up like overnight.
Q: So they're making personal loans and they just hold the title to the car?
A: It's like a personal loan, but they're holding the title. There's no lien taken against it because, you know, if a lien is taken against it, then the person has to get collision insurance to protect the lender. They're getting around that particular issue and we're looking at it to see if that is a fair business transaction for the consumer. We're looking at that real strong right now. I see the commission as the voice of the people and by the people for the people, and to serve on it you really have to be concerned. And when I stood before you three years ago, I shared with you my concerns on the local level, my involvement in my community and all, and I have still emphasized that and I have expanded that to a state level by serving as a commissioner on this board. Hartsville as you know was elected an All-America City just last year. I had help in that also. I worked closely with Mike Baxley, Denny Nelson, Jessie Hines and Ed Saleeby, my state senator, in getting the word out so to speak to the people in the greater Pee Dee area. I try to serve all the people of the state, but if I can be an impact locally, I do that. We have five newspapers right now that run my monthly article and it's just a very small article, but it states what the Commission on Consumer Affairs has done for the previous month. It tells them how many complaints were filed and it tells the consumers how many of them were resolved satisfactorily to the consumer's benefit and it tells them how much money was collected and then we give them a little tip of the month.
Q: Well, that's commendable and we appreciate you making that effort.
CHAIRMAN: Any questions from the committee?
Q: Mr. Skipper, we appreciate the service that you've given and your willingness to continue to serve. As you know, we don't make any recommendations or anything. We simply find you qualified to run again for the position or not. We hope to have that out and filed by next Wednesday, and as you know also, you cannot seek any commitments at this time until that is actually filed. As soon as it is filed, we will be in touch with you personally to tell you that it has been filed, and then of course you may contact the senators and House members and seek commitments at that time and that will probably be Wednesday of next week.
Q: Thank you again for your service and coming and your willingness to continue serving.
A: Thank you. You all have a good day.
(There being nothing further, the screening of candidates concluded at 10:10 a.m.)
The following persons were unanimously found qualified for Seat #1 on the SC Consumer Affairs Commission:
Seat #1 with term to expire August 31, 2001
Mr. Reese E. Griffin
Mr. Landrum H. Henderson, Jr.
Mr. B. J. MacInnis
Mr. Louis Mayrant, Jr.
Mr. Aubrey Powell
Mr. William R. Preston
Mrs. Kathy Kern Ross
Mr. Ron G. Skipper
/s/Senator C. Tyrone Courtney, Chairman
/s/Senator Robert W. Hayes, Jr.
/s/Senator Glenn G. Reese
/s/Senator Dick Elliott
/s/Representative George Bailey
/s/Representative James N. Law
/s/Representative Teddy N. Trotter
/s/Representative Willie B. McMahand
On motion of Senator COURTNEY, with unanimous consent, the Report of the Joint Committee to Screen Candidates for the Consumer Affairs Commission was ordered printed in the Journal.
The following Bills were read the third time and ordered sent to the House of Representatives:
S. 737 -- Senators Hayes, Peeler, Gregory and Short: A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 7-7-530, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO VOTING PRECINCTS IN YORK COUNTY, SO AS TO COMBINE ROCK HILL NO. 1 AND NORTHSIDE PRECINCTS INTO THE NORTHSIDE PRECINCT AND REVISE THE MAP DOCUMENT NUMBER ON THE OFFICIAL MAP ON WHICH THE LINES OF THE PRECINCTS ARE DELINEATED.
(By prior motion of Senator HAYES, with unanimous consent)
S. 738 -- Senator McConnell: A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 7-7-140, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO VOTING PRECINCTS IN CHARLESTON COUNTY, SO AS TO REVISE THESE PRECINCTS AND THE DATE OF THE OFFICIAL MAP ON WHICH THE LINES OF THESE PRECINCTS ARE DELINEATED.
(By prior motion of Senator PASSAILAIGUE, with unanimous consent)
S. 739 -- Senator Elliott: A BILL TO AMEND ACT 742 OF 1946, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE LORIS COMMUNITY HOSPITAL DISTRICT, SO AS TO EXPAND THE BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT, AND TO ADD TWO MEMBERS TO THE GOVERNING BODY OF THE DISTRICT AND PROVIDE FOR THEIR TERMS.
(By prior motion of Senator ELLIOTT, with unanimous consent)
At 11:25 A.M., on motion of Senator PATTERSON, the Senate adjourned to meet next Tuesday, May 13, 1997, at 12:00 Noon.
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