A new decade has begun, leaving behind the 2010s. Today we continue a special T&D series looking back at the years 2010 through '19.
We’re identifying the big stories as selected by The T&D at the end of each year and in some instances offering perspective on those stories with the luxury of hindsight.
When we're done, you'll get a chance to weigh in. We'll ask you to vote via our Facebook page on a story of the decade and give us your reasoning. We'll conclude with an editorial comparing our choice and yours.
After problems at South Carolina State University topped the news in 2012 and 2013, it could be said of 2014 that things had to get worse before they would get better.
The year saw S.C. State on the verge of financial disaster, on probation by its accrediting agency and in the news when former Board Chairman Jonathan Pinson was convicted on numerous corruption charges.
The revelation that S.C. State’s financial problems were worse than had been previously announced and the university’s efforts to correct them topped The Times and Democrat’s list of the most significant stories of the year.
The university’s external auditor told trustees in February that the institution’s cash and cash equivalents dropped from $37.5 million in 2009 to $9.9 million in 2014. He also reported that operating expenses had exceeded income each year for the previous five years.
By April, the only way the institution was able to meet its payroll was with a $1.3 million commission check it received from food vendor Sodexo.
On the last day of April, the state Budget and Control Board came through with a $6 million loan.
In the meantime, the legislature created a Blue Ribbon committee made up of five current and former college presidents to look into S.C. State’s financial affairs and help stabilize the institution’s finances.
The Joint Bond Review Committee approved the committee's financial recommendations, and the Budget and Control Board decided in December that a loan for S.C. State would be taken from the State Contingency Fund.
Then-Gov. Nikki Haley abstained from the Budget and Control Board vote, saying “There were no terms put with it, no accountability put with it, no responsibility. I wiped my hands of it."
Meanwhile, S.C. trustees passed a $75 million balanced budget for 2014-15 that included a cut in athletics and an increase in tuition. It also included a seven-day furlough for all employees.
Despite the loan and balanced budget, the institution was still in trouble financially.
In early December, then-President Thomas Elzey said the university owed about $7 million to vendors, including some $3 million to Sodexo.
Adding to S.C. State’s difficulties was its situation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
In June 2013, the university was placed on warning by the accrediting agency for issues related to finance and governance. The institution’s status was downgraded to probation in June 2014.
In addition, July saw the conviction of Pinson on various charges of corruption, including instances related to the university.
Other big stories from 2014:
- Three women were charged with killing longtime Branchville Fire Chief Alan Oakley in what authorities called a love triangle. Oakley was discovered dead of a stab wound to the neck in his Ott Street home on Dec. 28, 2013.
- Nearly 200 county and state leaders witnessed the groundbreaking for the Interstate 95 and U.S. Highway 301 interchange upgrade.
- Three years after Bernard Bailey was fatally shot by former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs, Combs was indicted by the Orangeburg County grand jury on Dec. 4 for murder in the case.
- Ice, sleet and rain — and even some snow — came down in The T&D Region in 2014. The worst was a Feb. 11-13 ice storm, with sleet and freezing rain causing widespread tree and power line damage. The restoration effort took several days.
- Local lawmakers introduced legislation to consolidate Orangeburg County’s three school into one countywide district.