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Board Minutes – October 10, 2017

South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium Board of Directors Meeting
October 10, 2017
The Citadel
Bernard Gordon Conference Room
Charleston, S.C.

Present at the Board Meeting were:

Board Members and Alternates

  • Dr. Harris Pastides, President, University of South Carolina, Board Chairman
  • Dr. David DeCenzo, President, Coastal Carolina University
  • Dr. Lisa Saladin, Executive VP for Academic Affairs and Provost, Medical University of South Carolina
  • Dr. Bob Jones, Executive VP for Academic Affairs and Provost, Clemson University
  • Dr. Dena Garner, Director of Research and Grants and Director of Undergraduate Research, The Citadel
  • Dr. Mike Auerbach, Dean, School of Science and Mathematics, College of Charleston
  • Mr. Robert Boyles, Deputy Director for Marine Resources, S.C. Department of Natural Resources

Host/Guest

  • Dr. John Weinstein, Interim Dean, School of Science and Mathematics, The Citadel

Consortium Staff

Consortium Staff

  • Mr. M. Richard DeVoe, Executive Director
  • Ms. Annette E. Dunmeyer, Executive Assistant/Office Manager
  • Mr. Ryan Bradley, Assistant to the Director for Administration
  • Dr. Susan Lovelace, Assistant Director for Development and Extension
  • Ms. Susan Ferris Hill, Director of Communications
  • Ms. Susannah Sheldon, Program Manager/Fellowship Coordinator
  • Ms. Elizabeth Vernon-Bell, Marine Education Specialist
  • Mr. Joey Holleman, Science Writer  
  • Julie Davis, Living Marine Resources Specialist
  • Ms. Sarah Watson, Coastal Climate Specialist
  • Dr. Bridget Cotti-Rausch, Coastal Environment Quality Specialist

Dr. Harris Pastides, Consortium Board Chairman, called the meeting to order at 10:05 am, welcomed everyone, and thanked them for attending the meeting.  He recognized Dr. John Weinstein who provided a welcome to members of the Board and attendees to the campus of The Citadel.

Dr. Pastides then thanked Rick and the staff for a great agenda.

Review and Approval of Minutes

The Board then reviewed the minutes of both last year’s annual Board Meeting, held on September 28, 2016, and the Conference Call Board Meeting held on January 30, 2017.  A motion to approve both sets of minutes was made by Dr. David DeCenzo and seconded by Mr. Robert Boyles.

Dr. Pastides then introduced Rick DeVoe, who welcomed and expressed his thanks to everyone for attending the Board Meeting. He asked that all in attendance briefly introduce themselves.  

State-of-the-Consortium Report

Mr. DeVoe thanked the Consortium staff and then gave presented a brief “State of the Consortium” overview, covering the agency’s mission, recent achievements, emerging challenges, and strategic directions. (A PDF copy of the presentation slides is attached to these minutes.)

Prior to the presentation, Dr. Pastides asked how many Sea Grant programs are similar to the Consortium. Mr. DeVoe stated that the South Carolina program is one of three Sea Grant programs nationally which have consortial arrangements, and that the South Carolina program is unique in being the only program that is a stand-alone state agency. He went on to describe how many programs are embedded with university structures.  Dr. DeCenzo asked if all the legal issues with the Consortium and the WLI building were resolved; Mr. DeVoe replied in the affirmative Dr. DeCenzo went on to express how pleased he was that Sea Grant was not held responsible for the building issues. Dr. Pastides expressed concern about the Consortium’s future lease at the Washington Light Infantry and suggested that alternative locations should be explored.

Mr. DeVoe stated the mission statement of Sea Grant and explained that the work that Sea Grant does is based on the needs of the stakeholders.  He indicated that Sea Grant serves as a broker and a catalyst, of information and of funding, and that Sea Grant’s niche is working as a conduit between those who generate information (universities and research institutions) and the people and organizations which desire such information to make more informed decisions.

Audit Findings, Responses and Action Items  

Mr. DeVoe then spoke about the agency’s recent audits over the past year, which consisted of the following:

  1. State of S.C. Agreed Upon Principles (AUP) Audit FY14-15 – Finding and Agency Response
  2. State of S.C. Human Resources Delegation Audit FY15-16 Finding
  3. State of S.C. Single Audit FY16-17- Finding (4), Agency Response, and Actions

He explained that he is seeking Board approval of adopted policies in response to the 5 the Single Audit Findings.  Mr. DeVoe explained that the AUP Audit of the Consortium is typically conducted on an annual basis by either representatives of the state auditor’s office or an outsourced vendor; this audit was outsourced. he stated that the Human Resources audit resulted in no findings. He then noted that the Single Audit, which in essence is a federal audit of grants, was the first one conducted on the Consortium in its 37 years of existence. 

Mr. DeVoe then introduced Ryan Bradley, who explained the Single Audit findings, and the Consortium’s policy responses for Board consideration and formal approval. Before he started, Dr. DeCenzo suggested that Sea Grant provide a clean copy of the findings as we provided only a copy of Sea Grant’s response.

Mr. Bradley reviewed the findings and presented the agency responses, as follows:

Finding 1: Material weakness in internal control over compliance, material noncompliance.

Action taken in response to finding: Per this finding, the Consortium will initiate process improvements to our internal controls for pass-through sub-recipients and ensure compliance with federal guidelines as detailed within the OMB 2-CFR-200. The Consortium will utilize monitoring strategies including remote desk audits, risk assessment questionnaires, and a rotating schedule for on-site visits to our sub-recipient’s sponsored program offices. All sub-recipients will be required to provide copies of annual audit reports and, where appropriate, corresponding actions resulting from any findings. From these results, the Consortium will determine if additional investigation is warranted. In addition to our current policy of holding ten (10%) percent of project reimbursement costs until all work has been satisfactorily completed and all financial information is provided, the Consortium will require more detailed fiscal information upon fulfilling reimbursement requests. The Consortium will require that sub-recipient reimbursement requests be presented on a line-item level and include detailed updates on matching support provide to date.

Finding 2: Material weakness in internal control over compliances.

Action taken in response to finding: Per this finding, the Consortium will implement a two-step authorization process for agency reimbursement/payment requests to federal (e.g., ASAP) and other fund sources. The process will be initiated through quarterly budget meetings with Consortium Administrative staff, including the Executive Director and Program Manager. Upon review by the Administrative staff, the Assistant Director for Administration will initiate the reimbursement/payment request and the Program Manager will provide a secondary authorization prior to the submission of the request.

Finding 3: Significant deficiency in internal control over compliance, other mattersAction taken in response to finding: Per this finding, the Consortium will develop and implement a time-sheet process to document level-of-effort for its employees. This process will allow Consortium staff to validate their time and effort per each award (s)he is funded through. Supervisors will be required to approve time-sheets of their subdominants and the Human Resources Manager will provide the second and final approval level. 

Finding 4: Significant deficiency in internal control over compliance, other matters. Action taken in response to finding: Per this finding, the Consortium will create an in-house document to capture the support of volunteer hours with regards to matching fund resources. Volunteer hours will be calculated based upon data available from Independent Sector (http://independentsector.org/). With regards to supplies or other material items, the Consortium will require a signed copy of all receipts provided as matching support. All documentation will require a two-step approval process; an initial authorization from the Principal Investigator verifying resources have been provided, and a secondary authorization from the Assistant Director for Administration.

Action Item – Formal Approval of Adopted Policies in Response to Single Audit Findings

Dr. Pastides then asked the Board to consider these policy recommendations as presented in the Board’s briefing materials and verbally by Mr. Bradley.  A motion was made by Mr. Boyles, and seconded by Dr. David DeCenzo, to approve the proposed policy changes and the overall corrective action plan for implementation effective July 1, 2017. The Board unanimously approved the motion.

Mr. Bradley stated that we have drafted the final documents which will be sent off to the auditors.

Dr, Pastides requested that Consortium staff keep the Board updated on any future changes and/or actions at the Consortium related to audits. Mr. DeVoe thanked Mr. Bradley and the Consortium finance team for continuing to do a great job.  Dr. DeCenzo asked Mr. Bradley if we know whether the auditors will be back this coming year. He responded that we usually do not receive notification until very shortly before an audit is to be conducted, so we are not sure. Dr. Jones asked to know if Sea Grant could survive a federal audit without a consultant; Mr. Bradley stated yes.

Program Snapshots Panel 1

Mr. DeVoe asked Dr. Lovelace to introduce our first Program Snapshot Panel. Dr. Lovelace explained the “Our Coastal Future Forum” (CFF) initiative, which is a research project to explore a public process for decision-making. She explained that the first activity was to survey a representative sample of coastal of South Carolinians to solicit input on the key issues such an effort should address. The initial CFF was held on October 20, 2017.   

Dr. Pastides asked the Board if the Consortium should be a go-to agency for these issues, or do we want to see the Consortium work more quietly? Dr. Auerbach stated that if Sea Grant doesn’t engage the public, they will certainly engage Sea Grant. Dr. DeCenzo mentioned that Sea Grant has been visible and should remain the to-go.  Dr. Jones agreed that Sea Grant should be a go-to agency and become more visible.  Mr. DeVoe stated that the Consortium has worked more behind the scenes on coastal and ocean issues for the past 25 years, but that the agency has had to be a bit bolder since 2011 do to its recent experiences in Columbia. . Mr. DeVoe stated that we are considering engaging state legislators much more on Consortium efforts. Dr. DeCenzo suggested that the Consortium visit with legislators to enlighten them about coastal issues and what Sea Grant is doing to address them. Dr. Pastides suggested to reach out to the coastal legislative delegations to provide them updates on current issues. Dr. Salatin suggested that Sea Grant has great potential, and that [the city OR MUSC?]  should contact Sea Grant.  She thinks a presentation to them would be great, with a focus on a specific area of interest.

Mr. DeVoe presented his thoughts on how to recognize the late Margaret A. Davidson. He stated to the Board his desire to create an event to commemorate and celebrate Margaret A. Davidson’s vision, leadership, and passion in her service as the Consortium’s executive director from 1983 through 1997. Dr. DeCenzo asked Mr. DeVoe if he was looking for a motion or a consensus. Mr. DeVoe indicated that he would like both. Dr. Pastides asked about the resource requirements. Mr. DeVoe said that funding was available in the agency’s Sea Grant omnibus program plan. The Board unanimously approved Mr. DeVoe’s request after a motion made by Dr. DeCenzo, with a second by Mr. Boyles.

Mr. DeVoe stated that the Consortium engages with a diverse set of partners, which are referenced in our “Impacts and Accomplishments” document for the National Sea Grant office and detailed in our Annual Accountability Reports to the State. Mr. Boyles mentioned that the Post and Courier had written an article on Sea Grant in the mid-80’s, which brought some value being a go-to agency. Dr. Pastides asked Mr. DeVoe to think more about an engagement strategy and come up with a plan. Dr. DeCenzo asked Mr. DeVoe if Sea Grant was doing anything in Georgetown referencing the flooding? Mr. DeVoe answered, yes, and provided a brief explanation.

Mr. DeVoe mentioned how Sea Grant successfully dealt with challenges at the State level, including significant budget reductions in the recent past and gubernatorial actions more recently, but now Sea Grant and other national coastal and ocean programs are dealing with proposed budget reductions on the federal level. He mentioned that the Sea Grant Association, the program’s 501(c)3 organization, is working on it. Mr. DeVoe stated that both the House and Senate have passed budgets favorable to Sea Grant. He also again thanked Dr. Pastides and members of the Board for sending a letter to our congressional delegation in D.C. Dr. Pastides asked Mr. DeVoe if Sea Grant had supporters in the delegation. Mr. DeVoe mentioned Senator Graham and Congressman Sanford, along with Congressman Wilson and Congressman Rice. Dr. Pastides suggested that Mr. DeVoe send a thank you letter to all South Carolina delegation members in D.C. who supported Sea Grant.

Snapshot #1 – Nurturing the Oyster Culture Industry – Ms. Julie Davis explained her role as a facilitator, her involvement with the Seafood Alliance, and helping with seafood diversity. She described her work in nurturing the nascent shellfish aquaculture industry in South Carolina.

Snapshot #2 – The Science of Stormwater Ponds – Dr. Bridget Cotti-Rausch passed out a one-page flyer on the Consortium’s Stormwater Ponds Research & Management Collaborative. She stated that Sea Grant has been on the forefront on stormwater issues. Through working with our stakeholders, the Consortium identified ponds as a growing topic of concern throughout the coastal zone. This was because the prevalence of ponds has essentially “replumbed” our coastline and created new aquatic ecosystem. To investigate and address the challenges associated with ponds, the Consortium gathered scientists and resource managers to form the Stormwater Ponds Research & Management Collaborative in 2013.

Snapshot #3 – Assisting Coastal Tourism and Recreation Business – Ms. April Turner spoke about her work in assisting coastal communities and tourism & recreation businesses.  She stated that the early 1990s Sea Grant, along with Clemson University, SCPRT and SCDNR and other partners, worked on a National Coastal Resources Research Institute-supported project to assess natured-based tourism as an effective tool in coastal rural economic development. She mentioned that coastal tourism is a primary economic driver in the nation’s coastal zone, significantly contributing to all coastal states’ economies. She provided some tourism-related highlights as part of the Coastal Communities Extension program, such as involvement with the S.C. Travel and Tourism Coalition and the S.C. Nature-Based Tourism Association, the Consortium Study Group Blueways-Greenways Project, and S.C. Coastal Communities Initiative-supported projects. Dr. Bob Jones asked if they were any birding festivals and Ms. Turner said no, but there use to be.

Information Technology and Disaster Recovery

Mr. Bradley provided an update to the Board on the Consortium’s IT network, which has been incorporated in to the state system and is now being monitored by the state. He noted that the Consortium has funding to hire an IT specialist, and we are now in the process of doing so. Several members of the Board expressed some skepticism that the Consortium would be able to afford to hire an IT person at the pay scale advertised, so suggested that Mr. Bradley and other staff keep up with Best Practices and bring in the expertise needed if we were not sure about IT issues.

Mr. Bradley also discussed plans for development of the agency’s Disaster Recovery Plan.  Mr. Bradley indicated that a proposed Plan outline will be provided to the Board. The Board suggested a timetable of July 1, 2018 when he Plan is completed and implementation begins.

Dr. Jones asked if Sea Grant was backing up all of their data. Ryan answered yes.

Program Snapshots Panel 2

Mr. DeVoe asked Ms. Ferris Hill to introduce our second Program Snapshot Panel.

Snapshot #4 – Beach Sweep/River Sweep – Ms. Susan Ferris Hill spoke about the Beach Sweep/River Sweep, South Carolina’s largest, volunteer driven litter cleanup, and passed around some picture taken at the 2017 Beach Sweep/River Sweep. She stated that the Consortium started the first Beach Sweep in 1988. The Sweep is held every third Saturday in September. She mentioned that partnerships are crucial to the success of the Sweep. The 27-year partnership with DNR has been amazing. Last year, Beach Sweep usually had more than 4,200 volunteers statewide who cleared over 24 tons of debris from our beaches, marshes, and waterway, saving taxpayers about $210,000 based on the value of volunteer time.  Dr. Pastides mentioned that he liked the Beach Sweep/River Sweep pictures and said that the Sweep was a great community-building effort.

Snapshot #5 – Professional Environmental Education Certification – Ms. Elizabeth Vernon Bell introduced The Palmetto Environmental Education Certification (PEEC) Program.  She stated that PEEC is a program to develop South Carolina’s first environmental education certification program, which began in 2013 after results from a state-wide survey and focus groups supported the need for this type of professional training. Since then, the Consortium, in partnership with 14 education professionals representing a variety of organizations across the state, developed the Palmetto Environmental Education Certification Program concept. She mentioned the PEEC vision, mission, and program goals, and provided a program overview. Dr. Pastides asked if the certification program was on-line, Ms. Bell stated that it is. Dr. Pastides asked can the course be completed on-line; Ms. Bell replied no. Dr. Pastides then asked if graduates of the course get a raise after the completion of the program. Ms. Bell stated that this topic has yet to be discussed.

Snapshot #6 – Workforce Development through Fellowships – Ms. Susannah Sheldon explained that her responsibilities as the Consortium’s research and fellowship program manager is indeed managing all student fellowship programs that run through Consortium, as well as oversees the research projects to ensure that objectives are being met. She then described the three programs. The NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is a 1-year fellowship that places fellows in either the executive or legislative branch to learn about marine policy development and implementation. The NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship (CMF) is a 2-year program that provides on-the-job education and training opportunities in coastal resource management and policy at state coastal zone management agencies across the United States. Ms. Sheldon stated that the Consortium has the highest rate of placements among all participating states, with 27 South Carolina students placed. And the Sea Grant/Space Grant Kathryn D. Sullivan Award is an graduate research award jointly funded by the Sea Grant and Space Grant programs in South Carolina which is presented to a student engaged in research that is relevant to both NOAA and NASA. The award was named for Kathryn Sullivan who was a NASA astronaut and the first woman to walk in space, as well as a former NOAA administrator.

Consortium FY18-19 State Budget Request

Mr. DeVoe presented the Consortium’s FY18-19 Budget Plan.  He stated that while Sea Grant did not request any recurring funds in FY17-18. we plan to request recurring funds to establish a new specialist position in resource economics.  Dr. Pastides advised Mr. DeVoe to be strategic in how he presents our request for funding this position. Dr. DeCenzo asked about the salary for this person. Mr. DeVoe said that the Consortium will be requesting $50,000 in state recurring funds, with the balance provided through our Sea Grant omnibus grant. Dr. DeCenzo mentioned that an advanced degree person will likely be needed for this position. Dr. Pastides offered to Mr. DeVoe that if the position gets funded and there is a need for additional assistance, the Board will help. Mr. DeVoe said that he would pursue a possible partnership with a member institution as one way to move forward. He mentioned that the position will require someone who is trained and knowledgeable in marine and coastal affairs. Dr. Jones agreed that the agency needs to hire a high-quality person.

Action ItemDisposition of Consortium FY18-19 State Budget Request – The Board unanimously approved the Consortium’s FY18-19 Budget Request, after a motion was made to do so by Dr. Saladin and seconded by Dr. DeCenzo.

Consortium By-Laws

Mr. DeVoe thanked and expressed his appreciation to all members of the Board who have served as Chair. He noted that the Board many years ago prepared a set of by-laws to guide the business of the Board, and further noted that they are out of date. Mr. DeVoe then asked the Board to review and consider changes to the By-Laws. Dr. DeCenzo asked if the By-laws were the original? Mr. DeVoe said no, that he had made a few revisions.

Action Item – Next Steps – Consortium By-Laws – Dr. DeCenzo responded by requesting that the Board be able to view the original By-laws before the Board can consider any changes. Mr. DeVoe agreed to send out a redline copy of the By-law to the Board within 30 days via email. The Board will then do an email vote on the By-Laws changes in Mid-November.

Consortium Staff Update  

Mr. DeVoe gave an update on Sea Grant’s staff roster. He mentioned that Sea Grant has a dedicated staff, and that our people are loyal. He also expressed that our member institutions are a great help to Sea Grant as well.  Mr. DeVoe said that Sea Grant is in the process of filling our Human Resources position, and had requested funding to fund an IT position, which was approved by the General Assembly three year ago. He also mentioned that Sea Grant employs graduate student interns. Mr. DeVoe indicated that Sea Grant has 14 FTEs.  

Consortium Program Advisory Board

Mr. DeVoe explained the set-up of the Program Advisory Board (PAB) in response to Dr. Pastides’ request for information about it. He explained that the PAB consists of leaders representing a variety of interests, from state and federal agencies, universities, non-profits, and the private sector. He stated that the PAB meets at least once a year to discuss the programmatic policy and planning of the Consortium. Dr. Pastides asked if a representative for the institutions was on the Program Advisory Board; Mr. DeVoe said yes.  Mr. DeVoe also indicated how the Consortium is attempting to diversify the Program Advisory Board. Dr. Pastides asked who runs the PAB, and Mr. DeVoe stated that he does. Dr. DeCenzo requested a list of the Program Advisory Board members; Mr. DeVoe referred Dr. DeCenzo to page 91 for a current listing of the Program Advisory Board members. Dr. Pastides stated that there is “no good science without good advice.”

Recognition of Col. Alvin A. Taylor

Though Col. Alvin Taylor was not able to attend the meeting, Mr. DeVoe asked the Chairman, Dr. Pastides, if he could, on behalf of the Board and the staff, present a gift of appreciation to Col. Taylor, who served as the Board Chairman for two consecutive terms. Mr. DeVoe thanked Colonel Taylor for his outstanding leadership, guidance, and service during that time. Mr. Robert Boyles, Deputy Director for Marine Resources at SCDNR, accepted the award on behalf of Col. Taylor and thanked the members of the Board and staff on behalf of Col. Taylor for their great work.

Election of Board Chair

Dr. Pastides asked for nominations for Board chair for the next one-year term, beginning January 1, 2018.

Action Item – Election of Board Chair

Dr. Saladin nominated Dr. Harris Pastides for a second term and Dr. Mike Auerbach seconded the motion, and by acclimation, voted in favor of the nomination. Dr. DeCenzo acknowledged Dr. Pastides as an outstanding leader and indicated that he had learned a lot under Dr. Pastides’ leadership as Board Chairman. Dr. Pastides accepted the nomination to serve as Board Chairman for 2018, stating that it was an honor for him to serve. 

Executive Session

Dr. Pastides moved that the Board to go into Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter.

Reconvene Board Meeting
Dr. Pastides reconvened the Board meeting and mentioned that Mr. DeVoe’s evaluation spoke for itself as far has his performance. He then congratulated Mr. DeVoe and the Consortium staff for a great job.

Adjournment

A motion was made by ??? and seconded by ???, and the Board voted to adjourn at 1:03 pm.

Respectfully submitted by
Annette E. Dunmeyer