State Rep. Chip Limehouse has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing connected to alleged meddling in construction contracts at Charleston International Airport, his attorney said Friday.
"SLED has cleared him," said Limehouse's attorney, Rep. Todd Rutherford, referring to the State Law Enforcement Division and its investigation. "They couldn't find that he did anything wrong."
Rutherford said the findings will be presented to 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson next week.
Until SLED's report gets to the prosecutor, who makes a final determination on whether to proceed with charges or close the case, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said the case remains "open and underway." He declined further comment.
The FBI investigation into the same allegations is ongoing, but Rutherford said neither he nor Limehouse have been contacted by the federal agency.
Limehouse, who said SLED never interviewed him, pointed to the state investigation's results as vindication.
"It should never have gone to SLED in the first place," Limehouse said. "It should have gone to the House Ethics Committee, and it would have been quickly taken care of. I have never been involved in anything underhanded at the airport or anywhere else. This was all a fabrication. I'm glad it turned out the way it did."
The agency launched the probe in September based on comments made in a letter of resignation by Charleston County Aviation Authority head Sue Stevens.
In Stevens' five-page departure letter in July, she said after one board meeting she found a check for $1,000 made payable to Limehouse's campaign fund in a folder along with a company brochure providing information about a construction management firm.
"The board later voted to give work to this company," Stevens wrote.
She did not name the firm that wrote the check or say when the incident occurred.
Limehouse said it is not unusual for him to receive campaign contributions all the time, that it was in his coat pocket and he placed it in the folder.
The Charleston Republican, who remains a member of the airport board but since January 2013 has sent a proxy to represent him at meetings, called Stevens' allegations "a smear job" that has hurt him politically.
Stevens declined to comment Friday.
Limehouse pointed to his 21/2-year term as Aviation Authority chairman as a time when the airport landed new airlines, started work on the $189 million terminal expansion, increased passenger volume and worked with Boeing on its land deal.
But it wasn't without controversy.
In September 2012, Limehouse tried to seize control over hiring and firing of the director of Charleston County's three airports. Some board members initially went along with it but later changed their minds because of the public backlash.
Many have questioned why Limehouse co-authored a bill in 2007 that placed the chairman and vice chairman of Charleston County's legislative delegation on the airport board. The law gave Limehouse a seat on the Aviation Authority because he also was chairman of the delegation. The law is being contested and is on appeal. A new bill seeks to rescind the 2007 legislation. It sits in a compromise committee, on which Limehouse is a member, but he doesn't want to act until the court case is resolved.
On Friday, Airports Director Paul Campbell, who also is a state senator, said SLED was the right agency to handle the investigation.
"If it's a criminal complaint, the House Ethics Committee can't do it," Campbell said. "I don't know who it involves. If it involves multiple people, you have to go with SLED."
Limehouse wasn't the only person with ties to the airport board mentioned in Stevens' letter.
She also alleged that a former airport board member received a contract to perform management services for the firm overseeing terminal construction work and left his partnership with that firm so he could start bidding on construction projects related to the terminal makeover.
She did not name the former board member.
Rutherford said he had no information about SLED's findings related to anyone else involved.
Until the investigation's findings are fully known, Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage said the probe taints the entire board.
"I think it's unfair for that cloud to be there for those not involved," Savage said.
Campbell said he had been pushing SLED for about two months to complete the probe.
"We are happy to see the investigation winding down," he said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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