Ethics allegations against S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, have been referred to a grand jury, according to a Monday release from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office.
In response to the move, Harrell released a statement asking for a state investigation’s documents to be released to the public and admonishing the attorney general for making the referral public before notifying the speaker or his attorneys.
Public announcements regarding grand jury investigations into public officials are rare in South Carolina. For example, the Attorney General’s Office avoided making public comments on a grand jury review of then-Lt. Gov. Ken Ard until a guilty plea deal was reached in 2012. Ard resigned his office the same day the indictment was announced.
In February 2013, Wilson’s office had asked the State Law Enforcement Division to review the allegations against Harrell, which centered around accusations that Harrell misused campaign money by reimbursing himself for flying his private plane on state business.
SLED returned its report, which they called a “preliminary inquiry,” to the Attorney General’s office for review last month.
Wilson’s office provided no additional information.
“No further comment will be forthcoming from this Office due to State Grand Jury secrecy requirements,” spokesman Mark Powell wrote in an email.
Harrell has repeatedly said he’s done nothing illegal.
“I talked about that a lot in the past,” he said in answer to one reporter’s question Thursday during a legislative meeting with the media. “I’ll be talking a lot more about that when that’s behind me.”
Following Monday’s statement by the attorney general, Harrell’s office released its own statement, which slams the state’s chief prosecutor:
“It is disappointing that the Attorney General notified the press before contacting my attorneys or me about this decision.
“This decision contradicts every indication that SLED and the Attorney General’s Office have given us on the progress of this investigation. I have cooperated fully and voluntarily with this investigation, provided access to everything they requested and met with investigators for several interviews.
“At every stage of this investigation it was reiterated to us that investigators have found no areas of concern. Given every indication we have received from SLED and the Attorney General, I am disappointed and shocked by this sudden change of course.
“This has drawn on for far too long and been done behind closed doors. I call on the Attorney General to immediately release the entire SLED report to the public. This report contains the facts of this matter, facts that have been kept from the public and even kept from my attorneys and me.”