House Speaker Pro Tempore Jay Lucas formally suspends Bobby Harrell

House Speaker Bobby Harrell has continued to maintain his innocence
House Speaker Bobby Harrell has continued to maintain his innocence

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - House Speaker Bobby Harrell has been formally suspended from his office Thursday by House Speaker Pro Tempore Jay Lucas.

Harrell initially suspended himself after he was indicted by the Richland County Grand Jury on charges of misconduct and misusing campaign funds, but an opinion from Attorney General Alan Wilson said Harrell didn't have the appropriate power to do that.

In his initial letter to the Clerk of the House, Harrell says he is "proactively taking this step" because it would be the best decision for the House of Representatives and the people of South Carolina.

"I have great respect for this institution and the people of South Carolina," said Harrell. "I have always sought to act in their best interest and continue to do so now by taking this action and suspending myself from office."

Harrell's note also asks Lucas to take over his duties.

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe delivered an indictment against Harrell just after 12:30 p.m. It included nine counts against the speaker, who has been under a cloud of investigation for at least two years.

Gubernatorial candidates Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Vincent Sheheen, are already asking for Harrell's resignation.

Common Cause's John Crangle believes even if Harrell is convicted his sentence will not be long, but Crangle says he doesn't think Harrell will return to office.

"My prediction is that Harrell will do a plea bargain, and that will include a resignation from the House," said Crangle.

Crangle, along with the Ashley Landess at the South Carolina Policy Council, filed the initial complaint against Bobby Harrell back in 2012, alleging Harrell reimbursed himself with his own campaign funds.

"We have enough people in South Carolina concerned with public integrity that the politicians were forced to deal with it," said Crangle.

Harrell released a statement Wednesday saying that he has never intentionally violated any law.

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