COLUMBIA, S.C. — Some South Carolina lawmakers are questioning why Highway Patrol troopers are providing transportation to people attending special events and parties.

Troopers are given wide latitude to decide when and where to take people who aren’t employees in their patrol cars, so the agency said it has no way of knowing exactly how often this happens.

State Rep. Gary Clary told Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith and other agency officials that he will start naming names of who he thinks is abusing the privilege if he doesn’t answers soon, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported.

“I’m talking about civilians provided valet service to events,” the Republican from Central said, adding he thinks the vague policy allows the agency to hide how often the rides are offered.

Clary specified he was only talking about rides to special events, not when troopers do their jobs helping stranded motorists.

Clary said he asked two months ago for a detailed breakdown of the special events rides given since Jan. 1, who got the rides, where they were taken and who authorized the trips.

The agency responded with a single paragraph from the operation manual for troopers that prohibits giving rides to anyone who isn’t an immediate family member or is not affiliated with the Highway Patrol, Clary said.

People affiliated with the agency could include retired troopers and other agency workers who are encouraged to attend Highway Patrol ceremonies and trooper graduations, said Col. Chris Williamson, the patrol’s commander since June.

Officials also said they have no documentation of a trooper violating the rule, the letter to Clary said.

Rep Eddie Tallon questioned Williamson about a private party in Columbia to celebrate the new commander’s promotion.

“Was it OK for a member of the highway patrol to bring a retiree and his girlfriend to that party?” asked Tallon, a Spartanburg Republican and former State Law Enforcement Division agent. “So it’s really open to anything they want to do?”

Williamson reiterated that it was up to the trooper to make that decision.

Tallon and Clary are part of a House oversight committee that has been reviewing the Department of Public Safety for nearly two years. Also at Monday’s meeting, a Highway Patrol sergeant with 29 years on the force gave his resignation directly to Director Smith after saying he was speaking for high ranking troopers and those on the road who are upset with low morale.


Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com