- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - In a story Aug. 19 about changes in the staff for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, The Associated Press, relying on information provided by the Department of Social Services, reported erroneously that Holly Pisarik would not be replaced at the agency. The agency now says it will find someone to replace Pisarik as a special assistant.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Haley hires her lead attorney as her next chief of staff

SC Gov. Haley’s next chief of staff is the 1st woman in that role since at least 1970


The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The next chief of staff for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will be the first woman in that post in at least 45 years.

Haley announced Wednesday that Swati Patel will take over from James Burns on Sept. 1. Burns is returning to one of the state’s largest law firms less than 10 months after leaving Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough as a partner. Burns, a former military attorney, also resigned his appointment as chairman of the State Ethics Commission to join Haley’s office.

“He was the right person to lead us into a second term,” Haley said.

Patel becomes Haley’s fifth chief of staff in less than six years. Her salary will increase by $15,200 to match Burn’s $130,000.

A review of legislative manuals shows the 44-year-old attorney is the first woman in that role since at least 1970. Her employment in the governor’s office predates Haley, the state’s first female governor.

Former Gov. Mark Sanford hired Patel in 2003 as deputy counsel and made her chief counsel in 2007, a position she’s held since. She worked on Haley’s transition team after she won election in November 2010.

“I can’t think of anyone who is more widely respected or uniquely qualified to lead our team than Swati Patel,” Haley said. “Swati’s steady leadership as legal counsel has strengthened our staff, guided our administration, and helped us deliver results.”

An 18-year veteran as an attorney for state government, Patel previously worked for various legislative committees.

Holly Pisarik will replace Patel as the governor’s chief counsel, Haley said.

Pisarik also worked for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough before Haley appointed her to lead the state’s labor and business licensing agency.

Pisarik has been a special assistant to the Department of Social Services director since December. Haley created the new job for her at DSS when she appointed Susan Alford to lead the troubled agency.

Alford will fill the special assistant position with a replacement for Pisarik, the agency says.

Pisarik will keep her $115,000 salary.

Both Patel and Pisarik earned their law degrees from the University of South Carolina.

Haley’s first chief of staff, Tim Pearson, left the post in October 2012 to return to his role as her campaign manager.

His replacement, former deputy attorney general Bryan Stirling, had the job for less than a year when Haley named him to lead the state prisons agency. He was replaced by former state Rep. Ted Pitts, who left after Haley’s November re-election to lead the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

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