COLUMBIA — The S.C. House Ethics Committee voted Friday to seek employment records from Gov. Nikki Haley as the committee weighs whether to reopen a complaint against the governor.
The GOP-dominated committee voted 5-0 to require Haley to provide documents including W-2 forms that show the relationship between the governor and Lexington Medical Center.
An ethics complaint the committee has been asked to reconsider alleges Haley illegally lobbied for the center while serving as a state representative from Lexington County. GOP activist John Rainey filed the complaint.
The committee earlier this month dismissed the charges against Haley even after voting that there was probable cause to look further into the complaint. But a resolution by Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, heard by the committee Friday led members to seek additional information.
Smith said the committee’s earlier vote to dismiss the complaint immediately after voting to find probable cause made the process look like a sham.“There is clearly more information worth seeing,” Smith said. “Why would the committee be fearful of seeing additional information?”
Debate on Smith’s measure was adjourned and Haley’s office has until noon Friday May 25 to turn over the documents to the committee.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Rainey is a bigot and that his allegations have been dismissed and discredited several times. Godfrey said Haley is focused on moving the state forward.
Rainey responded by saying “Name-calling is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”Previously in its investigation, the committee examined only the allegations lobbed by Rainey, a response from Haley’s attorney and a letter from a medical center lawyer.
House Democrats seized on the committee’s move to ask for more from Haley, saying the vote represents a reopening of the investigation. But committee member Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said the committee did not in fact reopen the investigation and wants the documents only to provide clarification as it weighs Smith’s resolution.
Rainey, who did not attend Friday’s hearing, has filed his own separate appeal of the committee’s dismissal of his complaint. The appeal asks the full House to take up the investigation. How the committee eventually votes on Smith’s resolution likely will influence how Rainey’s appeal is handled. That’s because Rainey’s request is the first known appeal of a committee decision.
A spokesman for House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican, said House attorneys continue to review Rainey’s appeal.
Committee member Joan Brady, R-Columbia, was absent Friday. She could not be reached for comment, but a staffer told WIS-TV of Columbia that she could not attend because she was speaking at a conference in Charleston. She voted earlier this month to dismiss the complaint against Haley along with the committee’s four other Republicans.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172.