It's been nearly six weeks since Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning heard arguments in a case involving House Speaker Bobby Harrell. And the state continues to wait for a second hearing that presumably will determine the next stop for the complaint against the Charleston Republican.
At this point, the controversy is 18 months old, and the speaker's case has yet to proceed to the main event.
Mr. Harrell's attorney, Gedney Howe, said last week that he expected the hearing to be held this morning, but it's not going to happen. And that's according to Judge Manning.
"Everyone will be notified at the same time by the clerk of the statewide grand jury," Judge Manning said Tuesday afternoon, in response to our query.
Considering the importance of this long-lingering case, the sooner, the better.
The Post and Courier first raised questions in September 2012 about Mr. Harrell's use of $325,000 in campaign funds. The speaker said he used funds to defray legitimate legislative expenses and politically related travel. Some of the money was used to operate Mr. Harrell's private airplane.
It's been 15 months since Ashley Landess, executive director of the South Carolina Policy Council, filed a complaint with Attorney General Alan Wilson, contending that the speaker had used his office for personal gain.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division delivered the findings of its investigation to Mr. Wilson in December, and he announced in January that the grand jury would take up the matter.
Following the March hearing, in which Mr. Harrell's attorneys sought to have the attorney general removed from the case, Judge Manning said he expected to rule the next week, presumably by the end of that month.
Subsequently, Mr. Howe said the case wouldn't even go to the grand jury: "The ethics committee has the exclusive jurisdiction."
Sending the matter to the House Ethics Committee is a particularly bad idea, in view of the broad influence that Speaker Harrell wields in the House.
Another possibility cited in ongoing speculation is that Mr. Wilson might be replaced by one of the state's solicitors, as the case proceeds to the grand jury.
Mr. Harrell describes the complaint as "a baseless attack ... driven by a personal and political vendetta." He says it has taken a toll on his family.
Certainly, the cloud continues to linger, with no assurance of a timely resolution, even at this point.
What are we waiting for?
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