Originally created 12/18/97

Blacks press Beasley for more high-level jobs



COLUMBIA -- Although about 30 percent of South Carolina's population is black, just 15 percent of executive positions in the state's Cabinet-level departments belongs to blacks, a recent survey shows.

"That's not good enough," said state Rep. John Scott, a Columbia Democrat and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. "I know that we can do better."

At Scott's request, the General Assembly's Legislative Council polled state agencies to determine the number of blacks in upper-management jobs.

The results have prompted black leaders to call on Republican Gov. David Beasley to place more minorities in departments controlled by his office.

Beasley's spokesman, Gary Karr, said similar polling done by the governor's office also showed about 15 percent of Cabinet-agency employees earning $40,000 a year or more are black, compared with about 7.5 percent in state government agencies as a whole.

Scott's job study found:

-- One of the 13 Cabinet department heads is black (Flora Brooks Boyd, Department of Juvenile Justice).

-- Five of the 35 deputy directors are black (14 percent).

-- Fifteen of the 106 executive staff positions in the Cabinet are held by blacks; those include administrative assistants as well as directors and deputy directors (15 percent).

-- Eight of the 80 executive staff jobs in 13 large non-Cabinet agencies surveyed are held by blacks (10 percent).

Scott, along with Brenda Reddix-Smalls, executive director of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and J.T. McLawhorn Jr., president of the Columbia Urban League, met with Beasley in late October to lay out their concerns.

Beasley promised to assess the numbers and report back, but they have yet to hear from him.

The governor tries to have a good, solid representation of blacks and women in his administration, spokesman Gary Karr said.

But the August jobs survey showed four Cabinet departments with all-white executive staffs: Health and Human Services, Revenue, Public Safety and Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Beasley's own Commission on Racial Relations cited inequities in promoting minorities to top-paying government jobs. It recommended the state Budget and Control Board come up with a plan to advance qualified blacks.

"State government should act as a role model by eliminating real and perceived inequities in promotion and hiring practices," the report said.

The day after his election in 1994, Beasley pledged to try to make his Cabinet appointments look like South Carolina. But "our No. 1 priority is qualification, with the admiral goal of diversification," he said.

Karr said it has not been easy to recruit qualified blacks, many of whom can earn more in the private sector. Beasley also wants people in tune with his conservative positions, Karr said.

Ms. Reddix-Smalls called that an excuse to bypass blacks.

"Twenty years ago, they said they couldn't find any qualified blacks. Today there are qualified blacks who are graduates of Harvard and Georgetown. But the excuse now is they don't share the governor's political beliefs. At some point, Republicans will have to stop rationalizing exclusion," she said.

Celestine Parker, director of community outreach for victims' assistance in the governor's office and chairwoman of the state GOP minority development committee, understands the frustration.

"Do we just go out and take the first one we see?" she said. "They have to apply and qualify. You can't just walk in there and say, `I'm a minority. Here I am. Hire me,"' she said.

Scott is eager to work with Beasley to increase diversity.

"I'm not looking for a quick fix. I'm not looking to nail the governor. I don't think we can settle anything with a lot of controversy," Scott said. "With the right kind of attitude, this effort can become a reality."