John Hardee

Former Department of Transportation commissioner John Hardee. File/SCDOT/Provided

John Hardee, a former South Carolina transportation commissioner, avoided a federal prison sentence on Wednesday, but he could face new charges in state court. 

The South Carolina Attorney General's office sent a letter to the State Law Enforcement Division on Thursday requesting an investigation into Hardee. 

That letter suggests additional state charges could be pressed against Hardee, who served two stints on the Department of Transportation Commission from 1998 to 2007 and from 2014 to 2018. 

The letter to SLED Chief Mark Keel comes less than a day after Hardee was sentenced in federal court to 45 days of house arrest and probation for pressuring a contractor to delete emails amid an investigation into potential bribery.

Kathryn Richardson, a spokeswoman for SLED, said that agency received the Attorney General's request and was reviewing it. 

The Attorney General's office declined to comment on its letter. Hardee's attorney, Dick Harpootlian, did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment. 

It's not clear what charges the Attorney General office might level against Hardee. But if SLED opens an investigation, it's likely to focus on facts that emerged in federal court. 

In that case, a confidential witness told federal investigators that he paid Hardee money and that the payments were intended to be bribes. 

Federal prosecutors, however, couldn't prove that Hardee ever took any official action in return for those payments. Instead, the prosecutors suggested Hardee was acting as a consultant for the unnamed witness to help introduce him to other government officials. 

It's illegal under state law for companies that lobby South Carolina's government to keep state officials on retainer. 

But it's unclear if that state law would apply in the case of Hardee and the anonymous contractor. 

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Get the best of The Post and Courier, handpicked and delivered to your inbox every morning.

Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.