October 24, 2014

Harrell makes it official, resigns from House in letter

Harrell served as House Speaker for 9 years (File)

Harrell served as House Speaker for 9 years (File)

Former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has now officially resigned from the House of Representatives.

Harrell submitted a brief resignation letter to the House Clerk dated Thursday, saying he would also withdraw from the House election in two weeks.

“Pursuant with the court agreement, I am informing you that am withdrawing from the 2014 election and resigning my office in the South Carolina House of Representatives at 5:00 pm (Thursday),” he wrote.

Harrell had been suspended from the Speaker’s position ever since his indictment on nine counts last month related to misuse of campaign funds and lying about it to state ethics officials. Harrell pleaded guilty to six of the misuse counts on Thursday. As part of the deal, Harrell was required to give up his House seat for at least three years. He had represented House District 114 since 1993 and was elected Speaker in 2005.

Prosecutors said Harrell used campaign money to pay for nonexistent flights on his private plane. The Charleston Republican said he disagreed with the charges but pleaded guilty because he and his family did not want to fight them any longer.

Speaker pro tempore Jay Lucas has served as acting House Speaker since Harrell’s suspension. Most observers believe he will be elected to the position for good once lawmakers return after Election Day.

Is Harrell conviction just the beginning?

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

After pleading guilty Thursday to six counts of violating the state’s ethics laws, now-former House Speaker Bobby Harrell said he wanted to end a “two-year nightmare.” But those with ties to the investigation say there could still be much more to come.

A plea agreement signed by the Charleston Republican includes language stating that, “The Defendant (Harrell) agrees to be fully truthful and forthright with the attorneys and investigators for the Solicitor and the Government in thorough and complete debriefings of the Defendant’s knowledge concerning unlawful activities should the Solicitor or Government seek his cooperation.” The agreement notes that cooperation includes turning over necessary records and testifying at any future trials or proceedings if called upon to do so.

If Harrell fails to meet the terms of the agreement, prosecutors could return to court with four more indictments they agreed not to prosecute on Thursday.

1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe would not say if there are other ongoing investigations, telling reporters after Thursday’s hearing he could not comment if there were.

[Read more...]

Harrell pleads guilty, resigns House seat

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

Former Speaker of the South Carolina House Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, pleaded guilty Thursday to six counts of use of campaign funds for personal expenses and has resigned from his seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

In a plea hearing at the Richland County courthouse, Harrell was sentenced to six years in prison, suspended in favor of three years of probation with a $30,000 fine. The 58-year-old Republican agreed to the following conditions in a written plea agreement:

  • Harrell agreed not to seek or hold public office for the three years he is on probation. The Charleston Republican was first elected to the House in 1993 and elected Speaker in 2005.
  • Harrell will pay a $30,000 fine plus an additional $93,958 to the general fund of South Carolina. Harrell will also turn over all of his remaining campaign account to the state’s general fund. That amount was not immediately available.

The 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office on Thursday also revealed a new, tenth indictment handed down against Harrell (one of the six counts included in the plea). The plea deal does not affect the three previous misconduct and false reporting charges related to the case. Prosecutors agreed not to prosecute these four counts in exchange for Harrell paying the nearly $124,000 required in the plea deal and cooperating in future investigations.

The plea agreement requires Harrell to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors, including to possibility of testifying “fully and truthfully at any trials or other proceeding” in state or federal court. He must also submit to polygraph examinations.

During the Thursday hearing, Harrell repeatedly answered “yes,” to questions by Judge Casey Manning asking if the charges against him were true. But afterwards he released a statement saying he still did not believe he had done anything wrong.

[Read more...]

Bipartisanship? SCGOP, Democratic leaders say SC should appoint military chief

SC Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison speaks in support of the change during a press conference at the Statehouse's veterans monument

SC Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison speaks in support of the change during a press conference at the Statehouse’s veterans monument

In a rare moment of bipartisanship just two weeks before Election Day, the chairmen of South Carolina’s Democratic and Republican parties announced a joint campaign that will ask voters to end South Carolina’s status as the only state that still elects its military chief by popular vote.

A state constitutional amendment on the ballot this November asks voters whether the governor should instead appoint South Carolina’s adjutant general position, and sets qualifications for the job. The Adjutant General oversees the South Carolina National Guard, Air National Guard, and State Guard, as well as the state Emergency Management Division.

SC Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison and his SCGOP counterpart Matt Moore announced a new media campaign to urge voters to support Amendment 2. Joining them in that call is the man who currently holds the Adjutant General’s post Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston. Livingston said he believes the “Vote Yes” campaign is needed because many voters do not know what an adjutant general even does. [Read more...]

Haley defends record as other candidates attack in first debate

Image: SCETV

Gov. Nikki Haley

As expected, much of the first debate in the 2014 South Carolina governor’s race consisted of incumbent Republican Gov. Nikki Haley defending her economic and ethics record while taking criticism on that same record from her four challengers.

Tuesday night featured the first of two debates hosted by the Charleston Post & Courier, WACH-TV in Columbia, WCIV-TV in Charleston, WLOS-TV in Asheville, and WPDE-TV in Myrtle Beach.

The roughly 50-minute debate’s satellite signal was interrupted twice due to particularly stormy weather in the Charleston area. However, viewers did get to see most of the event held at Charleston Southern University in North Charleston.

Gov. Haley touted the decrease in the unemployment rate and increase in Gross Domestic Product that has occurred under her watch. “Our focus will continue to be to put as many people to work as possible and to make sure it’s good, quality jobs that we’re bringing to South Carolina,” she said.

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw

[Read more...]