Dismissed suit alleges Haley ethics violations

Governor Nikki Haley
Governor Nikki Haley

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Did Gov. Nikki Haley commit ethics violations during her three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives? That's what a group of lawmakers want ethics investigators to figure out.

"So we are here to ask the governor to let some sunshine in on her ethics problems," Senate Minority Leader Harry Ott said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Nine House Democrats joined together Tuesday to ask Haley to tell the public whether ethics investigators have opened a case into allegations that she committed several violations during her time in the House.

The allegations are laid out in a lawsuit filed by former state Board of Economic Advisors chair John Rainey.

Rainey filed the suit in circuit court, but a judge threw it out and told him the allegations fall under state ethics investigators.

"The public needs to know whether we have complaints filed against the governor and if so, we would think she would want to waive her confidentiality to reassure the public that she's got nothing to hide," Ott said.

The lawsuit lists several potential violations: accusing Haley of soliciting contributions from lobbyists and voting on state contracts that dealt with businesses she worked for at the time.

Haley worked for engineering firm Wilbur Smith and Associates while she served in the House, but voted on legislation that benefited the firm financially.

The suit lists email evidence from Haley's time working for Lexington Medical Center that shows Haley lobbied the Department of Health and Environmental Control for approval for the hospital to build a heart surgery center.

One email between Haley and a hospital executive concerning the DHEC deal reads: "We have some work to do. Not only to switch votes, but to hold the ones we have."

Rainey's suit also alleges Haley raised $113,000 for Lexington Medical Center from lobbyists all from inside the state house while she was an elected representative.

Haley declined our requests for an interview on the ethics allegations, but issued a statement dismissing Rainey's claims.

"He has already wasted the time of the courts. He can try to waste the time of the General Assembly. He will not waste any of the governor's time. We're confident that the ethics committee will come to the same conclusion as every other entity that Mr. Rainey has shopped this nonsense to -- that it is entirely baseless."

In South Carolina, elected officials have the right to confidentiality if they are under an ethics investigation, but they can make it public if they choose.

Haley has not answered our questions about whether she is under investigation, as she is opting to exercise her right not to reveal this information.  

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