COLUMBIA - Gov. David Beasley claimed victory Monday as the state Supreme Court upheld his decision a year ago to fire then-Public Safety Director Boykin Rose for insubordination.
However, Mr. Rose's lawyer, Cam Lewis said the court's ruling also was a win for his side because it affirmed the lower court's determination that Mr. Beasley did not have the power to suspend Mr. Rose without a hearing.
In June 1996, Mr. Rose alleged that Me. Beasley's staff tampered with $740,000 in federal law enforcement grants. Mr. Beasley suspended Mr. Rose in July, accusing him of insubordination and mismanagement, and later fired him.
"There's nothing in this opinion to cheer over," Mr. Rose said. "Was I illegally suspended? They said yes. Was I improperly removed? They said no."
Mr. Rose withheld documents from former federal prosecutor Bart Daniel, whom Mr. Beasley hired to investigate the allegations.
Mr. Daniel later said he found no criminal wrongdoing in the governor's office. State Attorney General Charles Condon and U.S. Attorney Rene Josey also said they found no reason to bring criminal charges.
"It's obviously good news - a victory for accountability and ultimately the taxpayers of South Carolina," Mr. Beasley's spokesman Gary Karr said.
Mr. Rose questioned whether the taxpayers were getting a good deal in the legal dispute since he paid for his defense while Mr. Beasley's was publicly funded. "That's a joke. That's ludicrous," Mr. Rose said.
Mr. Karr said the governor's legal fees cost the state at least $30,000, but he said none of this would have happened if Mr. Rose had not sued.
"I had a duty as a public official to alert the authorities to what my people had discovered, and I did that," Mr. Rose said. "I would gladly lose my job any day to expose what I believe to be corruption in government."
Mr. Rose said he never intended to withhold documents. He insists that Dodge Fredrick, the state's FBI agent-in-charge, told him to protect certain documents from public disclosure.
Mr. Rose was required to "immediately" furnish information requested by Mr. Beasley, the court ruled.
"It is not for this court to second-guess the wisdom of the Legislature in imposing such a duty on public officers. A public officer's failure to comply with a statutory duty constitutes misfeasance in office," the justices wrote.
Mr. Rose said he probably was through appealing his dismissal, but he still would like to see further investigation of his allegations. He said the court did not consider his accusations, only his actions.
"Despite the reprehensibility of the alleged grant manipulations and forgeries, it is unavoidably Rose's conduct we must scrutinize," the court wrote. "We cannot exonerate him by examining the merits of his claim regarding improprieties by other government officials."