Published Feb. 18, 2013
John Finan is returning to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce as its leader following the sudden resignation of Abraham Turner.
On Friday, Turner submitted a handwritten letter to Gov. Nikki Haley, saying that he would leave his job as executive director for personal reasons effective March 1.
In accepting Turner’s resignation, Haley praised the Phillips native’s efforts to serve his nation and state.
“I appreciate General Turner’s — a lifelong public servant — devotion to our state and nation, and wish him nothing but the best going forward,” the governor said.
However, Democratic leaders blistered Haley with criticism, accusing her administration of incompetence.
“Gov. Haley has allowed her agency, SCDEW, to become an absolute embarrassment,” House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said in a statement. “In the last two weeks, the governor’s agency has made news because of crippling layoffs, massive pay raises, lavish taxpayer-funded beach retreats, the closing of 17 unemployment centers in rural counties and now the resignation of the executive director.”
State Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Fairfield, said Turner’s departure shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“We've seen a pattern of incompetence with Gov. Haley’s Cabinet officials,” Coleman said in a statement. “The recent revelations of staff pay raises and a taxpayer-funded beach trip while the agency is laying off employees and closing unemployment services to rural communities are appalling.”
Since October, the agency has chopped about 130 jobs, reducing its workforce to less than 1,000 people.
Haley defended the layoffs.
“With unemployment dropping in our state, there is less need to provide taxpayer-paid services to formerly jobless people,” the governor said. “That’s a really good thing — but we wouldn't expect those whose job it is to turn every issue into a political football to acknowledge that."
When Turner, a retired Army major general and former commander at Fort Jackson, replaced Finan in September 2011 the state’s jobless rate was 11.1%. By December, the last month for which statistics are available, the state’s jobless rate dipped to 8.4%.
Finan’s first stint at the department began April 2010 when he was appointed by former Gov. Mark Sanford as part of a major reform that removed the department from control of an independent commission and made it part of the governor’s Cabinet.
Sanford pushed for the changes after the agency, then known as the Employment Security Commission, had to borrow $963 million from the federal government to cover unemployment benefits claims filed by thousands of South Carolinians who had lost their jobs during the recession.
As DEW’s executive director, Finan was credited with getting the agency back on the road to solvency, improving operational efficiencies and reducing costs by implementing a debit card program to pay unemployment benefits.
The Macon, Ga., native is a 30-year veteran of the Air Force. His last military job was director of budget operations for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Financial Management and Comptroller. He was responsible for all aspects of the operation and maintenance and personnel budgeting process, and is chairman of the Air Force Board Operating Budget Review Committee.
Part of his duties with the Air Force was to defend budget requests and testify before Congress, and work with congressional staffers and members in guiding military legislation.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1993, Finan served as director of management, budget and planning for the Montgomery County, Md., school district.
Most recently, Finan had been serving as chairman of the state’s Commission on Higher Education. He was appointed in July by Haley to a four-year term.
“Since its creation, making sure DEW serves the businesses of South Carolina and helps to put our people back to work has been a passion of mine, and when the governor called and asked me to lead the agency through this time of transition, I was happy to rejoin the team,” Finan said.