Investigation into SC State employee's use of state credit card

By Jody Barr - bio | email

ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating South Carolina State University's finance director about his use of a state issued credit card.

The vice president was the subject of a university internal investigation, and the final report was never made public until now.

In 2007, former SC State University President Andrew Hugine ordered an internal investigation into suspected improprieties inside the university's finance office. The report showed state contract conflicts, possible misuse of state credit cards, and meals as much as $650 on the finance department's credit card. "The report's not true," SC State Finance Director John Smalls told WIS News 10's Jody Barr, " what you need to understand."

Smalls said he had no clue he was under investigation by the university's auditor in 2007. The investigation showed Smalls' office authorized five contracts, paying his daughter nearly $35,000 to provide interior decorating services. The report showed Smalls personally signed four of the five contracts, which the auditor claimed is a clear violation of the university's ethical conduct policy. Smalls, on the other hand, said that's not true. "Nepotism is involved when a person is living with you," stated Smalls, "The person that did this work, Alisa Smalls, she has a company in Atlanta and that does not create nepotism. She does not live in my household. She doesn't live in South Carolina. She lives in Atlanta."

The policy states employees: "may not engage directly or indirectly in any business transaction for the profit of the employee or employee's family member." Employees may not: "participate in the negotiation in which the employee or employee's family member has a financial or personal interest."

The report showed Smalls' state credit card had "questionable or inappropriate charges"-- $5,000 in travel, $879 snacks, a $533 tv, meals as high as $600, and $5,000 in gift cards - all against state policy.

Smalls said since the LAC state credit card audit came out Wednesday, the university changed its state credit card policy. He claimed many of the inappropriate charges before should have been blocked by the state, which would have stopped many of the charges.

Smalls said he's changed the university's policies dealing with state credit cards but pointed out no state money was spent, and he said he has the records to prove it. After the interview with WIS News 10, Smalls said that he'd have to pull the records Barr asked for during the interview and have his public relations office fax them. So far, WIS News 10 has not received those records.

SLED will not share any information about its investigation into the case, and WIS News 10 has no indication on when it may be finished.

Smalls said he explained his case to the board back in 2007, and the board was satisfied with the purchases.

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