USC rally for ousted trustee Darla Moore

COLUMBIA — University of South Carolina students and alumni Wednesday called on Gov. Nikki Haley to reinstate Darla Moore to the USC board, even though they recognized the request was probably futile, calling it disrespectful for the new Republican governor to boot the school's top donor.

Moore plans to address supporters on campus Thursday afternoon. It will be her first public statement since Haley removed the namesake of USC's business school two weeks ago and replaced her with a campaign donor. Moore's appearance, confirmed by college officials, was announced at Wednesday's rally.


The announcement came a day after Sen. Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia, introduced a bill that would create a new seat on the 20-member board, to be elected by legislators. The General Assembly already fills 17 of the slots. Though he opposed Haley during her campaign, Knotts said his proposal was not a move against her.

"I'm just trying to find a way to right a wrong and a graceful way to correct a problem," Knotts said, adding he doesn't know Moore personally and has never met her. "I have no dog in this fight."

But Haley opposes his idea.

"No legislator should be so arrogant as to create new legislation just because he doesn't approve of the governor's appointment," Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said.

Moore has pledged $70 million to her alma mater in irrevocable trusts, as well as $10 million to Clemson University in her father's honor. Haley replaced her with Lexington attorney and USC graduate Tommy Cofield, who gave $4,500 to Haley's campaign, as did his sister, who co-founded their law firm.

Haley has said she replaced Moore, the governor's appointee since 1999, to give the board a fresh perspective.

Haley can fill two slots on the 20-member board. She reappointed Florence attorney Mark Buyck Jr., also a Haley campaign donor, as her designee. He was first put on the board in 1987.

Her office made clear Wednesday she would not change her mind about appointing Cofield.

"The governor always appreciates when people understand the power of their voice and fight for what they believe in — as students are doing today," Godfrey said. "We have to be clear that these board positions are not lifetime jobs. There must be no sense of entitlement to public office, whether for legislators, governors or public university board members, regardless of their record of past service or philanthropy. There are many great people in South Carolina — like Tommy Cofield — who can and will do an excellent job in these positions."

But current and former students complained the move didn't make sense.

"Here's a charitable, giving person, and we have a governor who essentially shows her the backside of her hand," said Columbia attorney Paul de Holczer, who earned master's and law degrees from USC.

He acknowledged disappointment by the turnout of the noon rally. Fewer than 200 people attended the event that was promoted on social Web sites.

Edna Wilcensky, a 68-year-old USC graduate, carried a sign that read: "$70,000,000 to USC. $4,500 to Haley. Do the Math." She credits Moore with the business school's top rankings in various reports.

"Her name and the people she knows carry a great deal of clout," said Wilcensky, of West Columbia.

Rally organizer Katherine Muller called on Cofield to step down, noting she didn't expect Haley to reinstate Moore.

"My main thrust today is to call on Mr. Thomas Cofield to be the hero here, to be the superstar, to come out smelling like a rose and resign voluntarily," said Muller, 46, a 1990 USC business school graduate who runs a marketing firm and was a paid staffer for President Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

She hopes he doesn't want to serve on the board under these circumstances. Cofield did not immediately return messages Wednesday. He also returned none left last week.

USC graduate and attorney Joe Underwood, 61, said he knows Cofield as an upstanding guy.

"But this smells like crass political payback — like a payoff to a contributor," Underwood said.

Godfrey contends Haley appointed Cofield because he's a "well-respected attorney, businessman, husband and father" who shares Haley's positions on higher education.

USC business major Paige Bachety, 20, said she found it odd that Haley, the state's first female governor, removed Moore and replaced her with another man. The board now consists of one minority female and 19 white men.


Savannah River Site resumes normal activity

A suspicious item was discovered Wednesday afternoon at the Savannah River National Laboratory which prompted emergency responseactivities.

... Read more