A new bill up in a South Carolina House committee Tuesday would allow public officials to be charged with ethic violations even after they leave office.
Rep. Mike Sottile (R-Isle of Palms) is sponsoring the bill. He says there is currently a statute of limitations that prevents public officials from being punished for violations they committed more than four years ago.
Sottile’s bill would change the law so that a current official could be charged for any ethics violation they committed while in office, no matter how long ago. The statute of limitations would instead expire four years after the official left office.
“This is all about accountability,” Sottile told South Carolina Radio Network, “I think everybody that serves publicly should be accountable for what they do.”
Sottile said he drafted the bill in 2010 after learning about an investigation into Mount Pleasant town councilman Paul Gawrych. Acting on a former councilmember’s complaint, the State Ethics Commission looked into whether Gawrych had a conflict of interest in voting and lobbying for road projects that benefitted his asphalt company from 2004 to 2007. The Ethics Commission cleared Gawrych of any intentional wrongdoing, but warned him to be careful in the future.
Sottile said the new law, if passed, would also cover government employees, on top of elected officials.
The bill will be up in the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. It received a favorable report last week from a Judiciary subcommittee.