MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Following his resignation last week, former South Carolina Department of Transportation Commissioner Mike Wooten said that a piece of legislation he worked so hard to pass is what ultimately led to him stepping down.
Wooten helped create the bill that came to be known as Act 40, or the gas tax bill, but an addition to that piece of legislation that he didn't know about would prohibit his firm from filing any kind of permit with SCDOT.
"When I was selected to go on the DOT commission, it was very clear to everybody that I'm in the engineering business, we apply for permits for DOT all the time and it seemed to be OK to everyone," Wooten said. "But under Act 40, that was going to have to stop."
According to Wooten, the section of Act 40 that he was unaware of until now would eventually put his firm, DDC Engineers Inc., out of business.
"The smart thing for me to do from a legal standpoint was for me to go ahead and resign, which would clear the road for the governor to go ahead and announce his appointment and I wouldn't get locked into the one-year hiatus of not being able to do business," Wooten said.
The section of Act 40 that prevents Wooten's business from being able to apply for permits specifically states, "A member of the commission may not have any interest, direct or indirect, in any contract, franchise, privilege, or other benefit granted or awarded by the department during the member's term of appointment and for one year after the termination of the appointment."
That law goes into effect July 1 and would prevent Wooten from being able to apply for any permits with the DOT for a year after his term ended.
However, regardless of his quick decision to resign, he said he is proud of what he has been able to accomplish during the last four years as a commissioner with the SCDOT.
During his time as an SCDOT commissioner, Wooten was able to accomplish things like raising funding for the DOT, getting a permit for Interstate 73 and have SCDOT be named the most efficient department of transportation in America.
"If you add all that up, I would never have believed four years ago I would have been able to accomplish all of that with the help of my fellow commissioners," he said.
Tony Cox has been appointed by the governor to take Wooten's place and he's confident he'll do a great job.
"It's great to leave knowing that we've accomplished that much and that it's going to go in the hands of somebody that I hold in high regards and high trust in," said Wooten.
According to Wooten, he and his staff have worked hard the past four years to set goals and focus on policy for the DOT and he believes they've moved the commission in the right direction.