Richard Eckstrom (Photo courtesy of S.C. Public Radio)
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom will resign effective April 30, after he potentially faced removal from office because of a $3.5 billion accounting error.
The state’s top fiscal watchdog delivered his letter of resignation to the governor Thursday, according to a copy of the letter published by WIS-TV 10.
Eckstrom’s decision comes as state legislators were pressuring the elected Republican to resign.
Lawmakers were angry about an investigative report they requested from the Senate Finance Constitutional subcommittee, released on March 15, that criticized the accounting error.
“… Eckstrom has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to perform statutory duties of the office to which he was elected,” the report said.
Eckstrom had overstated the amount of cash in the state’s General Fund for the past decade, the report said. No money is missing, but the financial misstep could affect the state’s credit rating, meaning it could cost the state more to borrow money.
By 2022, the overstatement of money totaled $3.5 billion, the report said.
The report said Eckstrom should be relieved of his duties, the General Assembly should begin proceedings to remove him from office and the position should no longer be an elected office.
Eckstrom was facing mounting actions against him from the Senate and the House.
A joint resolution introduced on March 16 called for Eckstrom’s removal from office.
The resolution used a constitutional provision that would require the governor to fire Eckstrom if two-thirds of both the House and the Senate approved it.
Members of the House also filed a resolution on March 2 to open an impeachment inquiry into Eckstrom’s conduct.
Despite his initial resistance to resigning and in his resignation letter, Eckstrom supported a constitutional amendment to make his office a gubernatorial appointment instead of an elected office.
On Tuesday, Senate subcommittee unanimously advanced the constitutional amendment to full committee after less than 17 minutes of discussion.
The step lawmakers were about to take with the comptroller general’s office is agreeable, Sen. Vernon Stephens, D-Orangeburg, said during the subcommittee meeting.
The Senate judiciary subcommittee discussed additions to the amendment that would remove powers the state constitution gives the comptroller.
Subcommittee members agreed the comptroller general should be removed from the list of executive officials who can vote to remove the governor for disabilities and should no longer have the power to levy a statewide property tax if South Carolina defaults on its debt.
“I would suggest the governor would be the appropriate one to make that call,” committee chair Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, said during the meeting.
Campsen has sponsored such an amendment several times over the course of his Senate career.
The comptroller general is not the state treasurer. But he supervises state spending, keeps the state’s books and maintains accounting controls over state agencies, according to the Office of the Comptroller General’s website.
The Senate must now select a replacement to serve out the rest of Eckstrom’s term, which ends in 2027, according to the South Carolina Code of Laws.
Eckstrom has served as comptroller general since 2003 and won reelection last November after running unopposed.
He is paid $151,000 a year, according to the South Carolina Department of Administration.