Add To Favorites

SC's state director over disabilities, special needs fired by agency's board

State - 2/22/2021

Feb. 19—COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina's state agency responsible for serving South Carolinians with disabilities and special needs fired its director Thursday, the agency confirmed to The State Friday.

Mary Poole was fired by the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Commission after a 5-1 vote following an extended executive session, said chairman Gary Lemel.

Poole had held the position since 2018 at a salary of $171,404 a year. She was hired to replace Beverly Buscemi after the agency came under fire, particularly from the Legislature, after serious allegations were made of abuse, neglect and other critical problems.

The board Thursday named agency attorney Constance Holloway as interim director until it can find Poole's successor.

An agency spokesperson did not disclose reasons for Poole's removal.

Lemel was the only board member who voted against her removal.

"Mary Poole dedicated her life to serving people with disabilities. Under her leadership, DDSN made more progress toward providing that service than had occurred in decades. I was in complete disagreement with the action, and my public vote reflected that," he said.

Before she was hired as DDSN's director, Poole had worked as a service coordination supervisor, a residential director and a day program director at agencies around South Carolina. She also previously worked as executive director of Maxabilities of York County.

"She has moved us closer to being in compliance with federal regulations, taken tremendous steps toward ensuring the quality services are being delivered to consumers and had installed a team of executives who were positioned to transform the agency into an effective deliverer of services," Lemel said.

Board members Barry Malphrus and Eddie Miller declined comment. Robin Blackwood, Stephanie Rawlinson and David Thomas did not respond to messages seeking comment by deadline.

One position on the board is vacant.

The Governor's Office did not immediately comment on Poole's removal.

DDSN is not a cabinet agency and independent of the governor's office. However, the governor does appoint the board's seven commissioners, with advice and consent from the state Senate.

Most of the agency's funding comes from federal money.

The agency oversees the care of people with intellectual disabilities, autism, brain and spinal cord injuries using a network of disability agencies around the state, agency-run regional centers and private for-profit and nonprofit service providers.

State Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, said Poole served with distinction and came into the agency during a difficult time, but focused on providing quality service to consumers.

"I'm grateful for her taking on the challenge at the time that she did," Alexander said.

Poole is the second state agency director to lose her job this month.

Gov. Henry McMaster fired State Accident Fund director Amy Cofield earlier this month after becoming aware of a lucrative job contract that was signed by the agency and a company who had hired her husband.

The governor called for an investigation, which has been referred to the state inspector general.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


(c)2021 The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Visit The State (Columbia, S.C.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Nationwide News