The South Carolina House of Representatives' House Ethics Committee unanimously agreed Friday to take a closer look at an ethics complaint against Gov. Nikki Haley. The complaint alleges Haley used her position as a House member to lobby and voted on bills to benefit employers.
The same committee voted on May 2 to dismiss ethics charges against Haley after finding there was probable cause to support the complaint filed by John Rainey, a former member of the state Board of Economic Advisors. Rainey submitted the same complaint to the US Attorney's office, the state Attorney General's Office and to a circuit court judge before finding the correct venue for the complaint in the House Ethics Committee.
The committee agreed to subpoena employment records from the Lexington Medical Center and the hospital's non-profit foundation to see where Haley's salary was being paid from. The complaint alleges she was being paid by the hospital, then lobbied for the hospital while she was a member of the House.
Haley has denied the allegations, and through her attorney Butch Bowers during the Friday hearing, Bowers called the Rainey complaint a "witch hunt." Bowers also accused Rep. James Smith, a Richland County Democrat, of participating in the "witch hunt" by filing the resolution that ended up reopening the investigation.
"This is not a political pursuit," Smith said. "It is a genuine concern, not only shared by me, but by many, many of my constituents. Not that in fact it was a sham; it was a clear appearance this committee did not fully investigate the issues before it."
Ethics staff attorney Patrick Dennis told the committee, according to his interpretation of state law, the case should be closed once they voted to dismiss the charges.
"It would have been impossible for this committee to have made a finding of probable cause, then issue subpoenas or demand additional information of either party," Dennis said.
The committee has subpoenaed W-2 and IRS 1099 forms from both Lexington Medical entities, as well as all financial records connected to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation's non-profit. The documents are due to the Ethics Committee by Noon Friday May 25.
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