SC tourism group moving forward with new name, president

The organization also named John Durst as its new president Thursday.

COLUMBIA, S.C.(WACH,AP) -- The South Carolina tourism lobbying group whose president killed himself earlier this year is changing its name and getting a new leader.

The South Carolina Hospitality Association says it will now be called the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The organization also named John Durst as its new president Thursday. Durst was director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism in former Gov. Jim Hodges' administration.

Durst replaces Tom Sponseller, who founded the hospitality group more than 20 years ago and served as its public spokesman and chief lobbyist.

Authorities say Sponseller shot himself to death in February after discovering that the association's accounting director had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rachel Duncan has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.

Durst says, "Tom was a giant in the tourism industry he genuinely was, Tom's shoes will be very big to fill."

The association feels they've taken the correct actions to make sure a they won't be any oversight in their future.

"Very pleased and gratified and confident about the safeguards that have been put into place to insure the difficulties of the past won't be repeated", added Durst.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)