In an article published in The Post and Courier on Sept. 6 Mark Powell, the spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, is quoted as saying that my comment that somebody at the AG’s office dropped the ball in the investigations spun off from the Bobby Harrell case was based on my ignorance of the facts because I had not met with anyone at the AG’s office for over a year.
In fact, the media were not notified of the spinoff investigation by Powell until July 2015, and, therefore, the people of South Carolina did not know that an investigation was even in progress. In fact, I left a telephone message for Mr. Powell not long before the investigation was assigned to Solicitor David Pascoe in July in which I told Mr. Powell, on behalf of Common Cause, that after more than eight months it was clearly time for him to notify the media and the people of South Carolina as to the status of the collateral matters related to the Harrell probe. I urged him to indicate whether there was an ongoing investigation or whether the matter had been concluded.
Trying to get any information from press flacks and staff in state government, as I have for 29 years, is similar to trying to get a rooster to lay an egg. They may crow a lot, but they are not going to give anything but noise.
I stand by my statement that the AG’s office dropped the ball. In fact, I think the ball was first dropped by Powell when he failed to notify the media that there was an investigation until journalists contacted him.
Secondly, I think the ball was also dropped when Attorney General Alan Wilson handed the related investigations to one of his top staffers rather than delegate it immediately to Solicitor David Pascoe as an independent prosecutor. It is perfectly ethical and necessary for Mr. Wilson to recuse himself if he has a conflict of interest, but it seems that the ball should have been handed off to Solicitor Pascoe in October 2014 as soon as Wilson recused himself.
Mr. Pascoe is well known as a very capable and aggressive solicitor, and he was a good choice in the Harrell case and in the current collateral investigations.
The problem is that the Ethics Act of 1991 has an internal four-year statute of limitations [S.C. Code 8-13-320 (9) (d)] normally not found in South Carolina’s criminal code.
This means that violations could be excused for the suspects under investigation on every additional day that they are not charged for their actions four years before.
John V. Crangle
Attorney at Law, Executive Director
Common Cause/South Carolina