COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has angered Black legislators by replacing the only Black member on the Medical University of South Carolina board with a White man.
Some Black legislators said Wednesday that Haley doesn’t care about diversity. She is South Carolina’s first female and first minority governor as an Indian-American.
Earlier this month, the governor replaced Dr. Paula Orr, a Black woman, with dentist Harold Jablon of Columbia, who earned a doctorate degree from MUSC’s dental school in 1971. The move left only White men on the medical school’s 14-member board.
Orr, owner of Charleston Women’s Wellness Center, had been the governor’s designee since July 2003.
“Dr. Jablon has extensive ties to MUSC and an incredible record of military service, leadership and professional achievement for which he has been widely recognized, and the governor couldn’t be more excited for him to get to work on MUSC’s board,” said Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey.
Haley can fill two spots on the MUSC board. Orr’s is a non-voting position. The term of the governor’s other appointment expires in June.
Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Kingstree, said he and other Democratic senators asked Haley to appoint Jablon, an MUSC fundraiser who sought the position. Jablon tried to get legislators to elect him to the board a year ago.
McGill said he didn’t know Jablon would replace the only Black member.
“We said we would be happy to do it,” McGill, who is White, said about the lobbying. Jablon “was just at the right place at the right time.”
This is not the first time Haley’s been criticized for a college board appointment. Students and alumni of the University of South Carolina last month called on Haley to reconsider her replacement of the school’s largest donor, Wall Street financier Darla Moore, with a lawyer and campaign donor.
Haley said then she wanted a new perspective on the board. Moore had been the governor’s appointee since 1999. Her removal left one Black woman and 19 White men on the USC board.
“The governor has always said she won’t be beholden to quotas and will instead always search for the most qualified person for the job who shares her vision, regardless of gender or race,” her spokesman said.
Only one of Haley’s 13 Cabinet appointments is Black Kela Thomas of the state pardon and parole agency. Black legislators note Haley immediately proposed demoting Thomas, announcing at her appointment news conference she wants to merge that agency with corrections.
Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said Haley’s appointment decisions were insulting.
“She doesn’t get it,” said Rutherford, D-Columbia. “She calls herself the first minority governor, but that doesn’t mean she likes Blacks. If you’re Black, you need a great deal of experience. But if you’re White, you just need a fresh set of eyes.”
Among the 90 appointments Haley has made so far, 17 are minorities. The governor can make 1,750 such appointments statewide, according to the governor’s office.
Jim Davenport contributed to this report.