By Rick Brundrett | The Nerve
COLUMBIA — State lawmakers are requesting another formal audit of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s handling of the relocation of the State Farmers Market — this time to include a proposal to pay a state official millions for property he owns at the new site.
The Nerve in May reported that the state Senate had slipped in an additional $16.3 million in its version of the state budget for fiscal 2013, which started July 1, for an unspecified expansion project at the Lexington County market. The proposed appropriation was later dropped.
Earlier this month, The Nerve detailed the state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers’ plan to spend millions in tax dollars to buy market property owned by state Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern. Weathers did not make public Stern’s connection to the market until after The Nerve’s initial story.
On Wednesday, state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-York and a developer, provided The Nerve with a letter signed by him and five other York County-area lawmakers requesting that the state Legislative Audit Council, the investigative arm of the General Assembly, audit the Agriculture Department again in connection with the relocation of the market.
“If they’re going to get $16 million from the taxpayers, they need to explain everything and show the documents,” said Norman, who led the effort to request an audit.