Robert Ford resigns from Senate, ethics panel sends case to AG

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - The State Ethics Committee has decided to send the case against state Sen. Robert Ford to the attorney general's office just hours after Ford tendered his resignation.

The committee found overwhelming evidence Friday to support allegations that the Charleston Democrat violated eight sections of South Carolina's ethics law. Its final order calls for the immediate transfer of all supporting documents to Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Ford stands accused of improperly using campaign funds. In hearings held Thursday and Friday, the committee alleged Ford used funds at two adult stores and paid off a personal loan.

Ford was expected to be at Friday morning's hearing, but he did not appear because he was admitted to Palmetto Health Baptist after complaining of chest pains.

While the total cost of funds allegedly mishandled by Ford has not been released, several of the eight allegations had totals as high as $80,000.

Thursday, Senate Ethics Commission lawyer Lyn Odom said bank records show the debit card linked to one of Ford's campaign accounts was used to spend $82 at a business called The Lion's Den in Bowman that sells adult books and videos. A $64 charge in January went to a company called Pleasant Gifts LLC, which operates the Badd Kitty adult stores in Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

Ford said after the hearing that he bought gag gifts at those stores for people who help with some of his community work but refused to be paid money. Small gifts for campaign staffers are allowed under ethics laws.

Odom also said bank records show the campaign debit card was used to buy Cyvita, pills used for male enhancement that haven't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Ford said somebody used his card fraudulently to buy the pills.

Odom said he found nearly $20,000 that should have gone into Ford's campaign accounts, but was diverted to his personal accounts. Ford's attorney, William Runyon, has blamed the problems on sloppy bookkeeping by a citizen lawmaker who tries to handle all his business without a staff.

Ford, a Charleston County Democrat, had been a state legislator since 1993.

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