By Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The leader of the South Carolina agency that provides services for people with disabilities has been fired without explanation.

After meeting privately and with no discussion Thursday, the board of the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs voted 5-1 to immediately fire Director Mary Poole, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported.

She had been at the agency for less than three years and made $171,400.

Commissioner David Thomas of Greenville made the motion to dismiss Poole. A former state senator, Thomas told the newspaper he couldn’t say why she was fired because it was a personnel issue.

Poole’s firing is for the good of the agency and hopefully will lead to the agency serving more people and serving them better, Thomas said.

“I’m looking forward to bringing in some leadership that might continue to take us forward,” Thomas said. “When you have to take action, it hurts and nobody’s happy. It’s best to do it and get it over with and move on.”

Poole said she has worked honestly and diligently for more than 30 years with people with disabilities and was not given an opportunity to discuss with the board any concerns with her work.

“I leave this particular position with my honesty and integrity intact and my head held high,” Poole said in a statement. “I am proud of what my team was able to accomplish during my 29 months as the agency head. We found and corrected many long-standing and significant issues within the agency and provider network. My only regret is that these efforts were cut short with so much work left to be done.”

When Poole was hired in mid-2018, the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs was suffering from years of abuse allegations with its providers, financial problems and long waiting lists for help.

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