Watchdog groups leaders to meet with attorney general on possible Harrell investigation
COLUMBIA — The leaders of two state government watchdog groups will meet with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson today to ask him to take over a prospective investigation of House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s self-reimbursement practices.
John Crangle, executive director of Common Cause of South Carolina, and Ashley Landess, president of the S.C. Policy Council, first made the request that Wilson lead an independent investigation of Harrell in early October.
Wilson said in a statement then that by law, the House Ethics Committee would have to first handle any complaint against a House member such as Harrell, R-Charleston.
Five of the six members of the committee have received campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with the speaker.
Crangle said the committee is incapable of fairly and objectively investigating Harrell, whose office has said he is in full compliance with state law.
Wilson said in his October statement that if the committee does not act, his office is prepared to “do what is in the public’s best interest.”
On Wednesday, a spokesman for Wilson said the attorney general’s position has not changed, but he typically meets with anybody who asks.
Landess requested the meeting, the spokesman said.
Last month, Wilson met with tea party leaders who also want him to investigate Harrell.
Crangle has said that Common Cause would file a complaint against Harrell with the House Ethics Committee, but he said Wednesday the group wants to hear what Wilson has to say first. Common Cause is waiting on a response to a request made with committee Chairman Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, that the panel recuse itself from handling an investigation of Harrell, Crangle said.
A University of South Carolina law student said Wednesday he likely will file an ethics complaint against Harrell in the coming days after being turned away once before.
Will Maxey, also a member of the S.C. Democratic Party executive committee, tried to file a complaint in late September following a Post and Courier report on Harrell’s self-reimbursements.
The complaint was rejected because of a state law that prohibits the filing of a complaint within 50 days before election in which the subject is running.
Harrell cruised to re-election Tuesday night.
Maxey, like officials from watchdog and tea party groups before him, said he still has unanswered questions about Harrell’s self-reimbursement of about $280,000 from his campaign account since summer 2008.