Although an attorney for House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) had announced to the press that a second hearing would be held April 30 into whether his client should be prosecuted for public corruption before a state grand jury by Attorney General Alan Wilson, the real date of that hearing — much anticipated by an anxious political class — remains a mystery.
“We’ve not been informed of any hearing date,” Mark Powell, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said Monday afternoon. Gedney Howe, Harrell’s famously wily Charleston attorney who told The Post and Courier that Wednesday was the hearing date, did not respond to Free Times’ requests for comment by press time.
The Post and Courier has also reported that Harrell’s lawyers intend to ask Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning to kick the case over to the House Ethics Committee, arguing that is the only appropriate body to decide on long-standing allegations of ethics violations by Harrell.
Harrell’s critics, including those who took the public corruption complaint to the attorney general, have blasted such a request as a crass, tone-deaf attempt to evade justice, given the extensive influence the speaker wields among state representatives, of whom the House Ethics Committee is comprised.
The South Carolina Policy Council — whose president, Ashley Landess, took the complaint to Wilson — points to Harrell’s wide-ranging authority to make appointments to powerful commissions and alleged ability to steer political donations from his deep-pocketed political action committee as compelling reasons for lawmakers to overlook any ethical misconduct by him.
The Policy Council made its official complaint to Wilson public last week, saying it had done so in order to show that it had always alleged “an ongoing pattern of abuse of power” that rises “to the level of public corruption.” Specifically the complaint alleges abuse of office for personal enrichment, including an attempt to bully the state Board of Pharmacy into benefiting his private business interests and dipping into campaign funds for personal use.
Because such malfeasance would violate the state’s criminal code in addition to its ethics law, the Policy Council and its allies argue that the House Ethics Committee doesn’t have full jurisdiction over the case or the capacity to conduct a credible investigation, with its purview limited to infractions of the latter category.
“This whole thing is extremely abnormal. It’s like something from a Franz Kafka novel,” says John Crangle, an attorney and veteran government watchdog who heads up Common Cause South Carolina.
Crangle, who has worked closely with the libertarian-minded Policy Council and an alliance of strange bedfellows in targeting Harrell, now worries that the slow pace of the legal procedures could be a winning delay tactic.
“The statute of limitations says that anything that happens four years before a complaint is filed has no criminal liability anymore,” Crangle says. “Well, a lot of the stuff that Bobby has been doing has been going on for a lot longer than four years, but as long as this process is delayed, before criminal charges are filed by Wilson or someone else, the more of what the man has done is absolved.”
For now, South Carolina’s biggest potential corruption case since Operation Lost Trust — the FBI’s wide-ranging takedown of South Carolina politicos in a 1990s vote-buying scandal — remains in a holding pattern.
Relaxation, Pain Management, and Stress Relief
Licensed massage therapist Allison Morris of AMR Massage offers 50% off your first session and every 5th session free of charge. Click here for location, hours, and more information.
Going someplace cool this weekend?
Let The Backpacker help you go lightweight, comfortable and in style! Patagonia, Prana, Merrell, The North Face and more! Click for location, hours and more info.
Hickory Tavern Is Now Open!
Find us on Facebook, Twitter (@TheHickoryTav), Instagram (@HickoryTavern), and visit our website for more info. 907 Senate Street in the Vista!
Ice Skate on Main Street
Columbia’s famously hot skating rink is now open! Additional information and discounts can be found here.
New Year’s Eve at Social
Don’t miss this Black and White Affair featuring Kap Slap. Tickets available online!
A Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve Carnival
From 6-11 PM on December 31st on Main Street, enjoy rides, games, karaoke, food, drinks and more! More information here.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Holiday Wish ListWhere to shop for gift ideas in Columbia this season:
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
F/T and P/T avail. Must have a clean driving record, organized and have a prof appearance. Please call for an interview or email resume to Kerry@crystalpool.com. Must bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Call 803-865-1200
Capital Kitchen & Bath One stop solution for all your remodeling & new construction needs. CAPITALKB.COM
The Lake Carolina new home community has it all! 1 YMCA, 3 pools, 10 parks, 20+ community events each year, and much more! Learn more. www.lakecarolina.com
WE’LL HELP YOU CREATE YOUR WISHLIST FOR YOUR NEW HOME! Choose from 11 communities & over 30 home designs. Personalize your home at our Selections Gallery. Our Customer Service Team gives you peace of mind in your new home. Got land? We can build Your Home Your Way on Your Land. 803-917-5583 3300. Sunset Blvd. West Columbia 29169 Click here for more info
CoMar Products Inc. Manufacturing quality surfaces for kitchens & baths since 1965. www.comarproducts.com