State Senator appoints Hacking Oversight Panel

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman announced Friday he has appointed a special subcommittee to "examine the ramifications of a historic security breach of security at the S. C. Department of Revenue that allowed the hacking of sensitive information about millions of South Carolina taxpayers and businesses."

3.8 million tax returns, from as far back as 1998, were hacked in South Carolina in mid-September. The state knew about the breach of the state Department of Revenue's system on October 10. It was announced publicly for the first time on October 26. You can read more about the breach and find answers to frequently asked questions here.

Senators Kevin Bryant, of Anderson, and Billy O'Dell, of Abbeville, will co-chair the panel set up by Senator Leatherman. Other members include Senators John Matthews of Orangeburg and Darrell Jackson of Richland.

Leatherman said he made the decision after a hearing where Department of Revenue Director James Etter explained what went wrong and what was being done to correct the problem.

"I don't think any senator was satisfied with the answers we got," Leatherman said. "More questions were raised than answers were provided. Mr. Etter first told us he did not know if private information of companies was stolen. When members pressed him, however, and after he checked with his staff, he admitted that corporations with state identification numbers had been breached."

Leatherman said finance committee members also are concerned about the process DOR established to provide protection to taxpayers.

"Some of our members are asking why the state is putting the burden on taxpayers to go through cumbersome procedures to sign up for coverage when DOR, not the taxpayers, made the tragic mistake," he said. "There is concern that tens of thousands of people, especially the elderly, will not be able to do this. We were told that privacy restrictions prevent the state from being able to take out a blanket policy. That might be correct, but we want to look at that."

"We will not play the blame game or compromise any criminal investigation," he said in Friday's news release. "We want to provide an open and transparent inquiry to find out what happened, make sure it is being corrected and, above all, ensure that everything possible is being done to protect individual and corporate taxpayers from a colossal failure that was not their fault."