Haley: Meddling by Harrell in ethics inquiry ‘unprecedented’

Gov. Nikki Haley called out House Speaker Bobby Harrell, repeating claims her staff made late Thursday that Harrell is inappropriately influencing an ethics inquiry involving her that has already been dismissed once. (File/Steve Jessmore)

COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley used her bully pulpit Friday to call out House Speaker Bobby Harrell, repeating claims her staff made late Thursday that Harrell is inappropriately influencing an ethics inquiry involving her that has already been dismissed once.

“What we are seeing now is absolutely unprecedented,” the Republican governor said.

“No speaker has ever done this.”

A spokesman for Harrell, a Republican from Charleston, said the governor is engaged in a “campaign of mass distraction.”

Haley cited a move early this month by the Harell-led House to pass a long-dormant bill to open its ethics committee hearings.

The measure passed one day before the committee voted to find probable cause and then immediately dismiss the allegations against the governor.

Committee members are now weighing a resolution that would reopen the complaint against Haley, which alleges that she illegally lobbied while a House member.

In the meantime, committee members last week requested additional employment records from Haley’s time working for the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.

A committee staffer then followed up on the committee’s vote by asking Haley’s Office for additional documents for a second pre-gubernatorial employer, Columbia engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates.

Haley said the move to seek the Wilbur Smith documents was politically-influenced because the committee itself never voted to ask for them.

“What was supposed to be a legal process has suddenly turned into a political process,” Haley said.

The governor said ethics committee staffers were instructed by Harrell not to pick up the additional employment documents on Thursday ahead of the Friday deadline.

The governor’s office eventually walked the records over to the committee’s office in the nearby Blatt building.

Harrell spokesman Greg Foster said his boss gave no such order, and that committee staffers met with Haley’s attorneys for a half hour yesterday to give them the chance to hand over the documents and ask questions.

Foster said the only thing Harrell is interested in is getting to the truth of the complaint against Haley.

Read more in tomorrow’s Post and Courier. Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.