House Democrats want Governor Nikki Haley to waive her right to secrecy if an ethics complaint is filed against her in a legislative committee.
The House Ethics Committee handles ethics investigations into both current and former members. Under state law, any accusations against a former member like Haley are confidential until the committee decides to punish that member.
“We believe Governor Haley, particularly after running on a platform of transparency in government, needs to be the transparent governor that she wants to be and say to the people of South Carolina, ‘I have nothing to hide,'” House Minority Leader Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews) said in a Tuesday press conference.
However, it’s not clear the governor could make the investigation public, even if she wanted to. Under state law, the committee’s investigation is confidential, but does not specifically give an accused member the option of waiving that rule. The option does exist for investigations by the separate State Ethics Commission– such as when former Gov. Mark Sanford waived his confidentiality during a 2009 investigation.
Last week, a circuit court judge dismissed a lawsuit that accused Haley of breaking ethics laws while she was still serving as a legislator, saying such issues should be handled by either state ethics officials or the House Ethics Committee.
Specifically, the legal complaint questioned Haley’s paid work with Lexington Medical Center and Wilbur Smith & Associates, both of which were dealing with the General Assembly at the time. The suit was filed by GOP activist John Rainey and state Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian.
The House Ethics Committee Chairman Roland Smith (R-Aiken) said he was not allowed to say whether or not the committee had received a complaint against Haley. Democrats called on the governor to make the case public.
“Whenever there is an issue that calls into question our character, our ability to do our jobs, we owe it to the public to set the record straight,” said State Rep. Chandra Dillard (D-Greenville).
The governor’s spokesman Rob Godfrey called the issue a “waste of time,” saying the Ethics Committee would likely find the charges baseless.