GOOSE CREEK — South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson knew going in that he was working a tough room, so he decided to face the issue head-on.
Wilson made plans to speak at Saturday’s Berkeley County Republican Breakfast before Jan. 17, the day his office requested that the State Law Enforcement Division look into the Berkeley County School District.
On Saturday, when Wilson took the microphone in front of a crowd of about 100, he said it would be “unfair, inappropriate and unethical” for him to talk about the case.
As the investigation nears five months, several members of the Republican Party have become vocal about allegations that employees used district time and resources to work on November’s school improvement campaign.
After a presentation on April 29, the party’s executive committee passed a resolution calling for Wilson to “fully investigate and prosecute any offenders of S.C. state law” in the case.
“Before I get into my remarks … I want to cut straight to the meat,” Wilson said. “Every member of your delegation — House, Senate, including members in other elected positions that I have bumped into, political officials, party officials — have come to me, probably at many of your requests, and asked me to comment on any matters going on down here in Berkeley County. … Let me go ahead and try to answer the questions that you may have up-front, without crossing any lines.”
Wilson said he cannot discuss the ongoing investigation, “but I can assure you that the process is currently working. SLED is working very hard to give us a formalized, criminal SLED report, an investigative report, which will be obviously supplemented by the information that is already out there in the court of public opinion.”
He also said he cannot predict when it will be finished.
“There are a thousand reasons why it can be taking as long as it’s taking,” he said. “The public often thinks investigations take way too long… it’s like an iceberg, there’s a lot more beneath the surface than above the surface that’s going on, and there are also lots of other cases going on.”
He apologized that he could not say more and added, “I hope for today’s purpose that that satisfies most of you.”
It seemed to work, as Wilson, who also said Saturday he plans to seek re-election in 2014, went on to talk about and answer questions concerning issues such as Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, ethics and how the possible closing of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp could affect the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston.
Party Chairman Terry Hardesty, a former school board member, said after the meeting he was pleased with Wilson’s comments.
“I wanted to know if he was going to be a fair and impartial person when he looks at this case and make a decision based just on the merits of what’s before him, and he answered that question about three different ways in the affirmative,” he said. “He tactfully allayed my fears that this would be glossed over. From what I heard him say, it’s not.”
Daniel Island lawyer Josh Whitley, who first brought the charges against the district to light, said he was also pleased.
“I applaud his approach regarding this process,” he said. “I appreciate his comments that this is a very serious criminal investigation.”
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713.
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