Harrell probe to go on during appeal

Wilson (left) and Harrell

COLUMBIA - The criminal investigation into ethics-related allegations will continue against House Speaker Bobby Harrell while a ruling from a lower court is appealed, the state Supreme Court said Thursday.

The ruling, signed by the court's five justices, echoes Attorney General Alan Wilson's stance in an earlier interview with The Post and Courier. "The investigation is not over, it's going forward," Wilson said in the interview. "Under the law, we're allowed to (investigate) while it's being appealed."

The justices said that the court would not consider Wilson's motion to allow him to continue the criminal investigation into the appeal because he already is allowed to do so under South Carolina law. Documents related to the case were also released on Thursday. They include the original complaint and correspondence from the South Carolina Policy Council, which asked Wilson to pursue the case.

Harrell has said that Wilson is pursuing the case for political reasons, and he plans to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in. "This clearly displayed bias by the Attorney General would taint any further investigation conducted by him on this matter," Harrell said in a statement. "Lacking a fair and impartial prosecutor handling this matter, we are filing a motion asking the Supreme Court to stay any further investigation by the Attorney General until this appeal process is finished."

Harrell has said that the allegations against him - that he used campaign funds for personal use and his position to benefit his company, among others - are false.

Manning had ruled that a panel of lawmakers must review the allegations against Harrell before the attorney general is allowed to investigate.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case June 24. Critics have asked Chief Justice Jean Toal to recuse herself from the case because Harrell was heavily involved in helping to get her re-elected in February. Toal has declined to comment.

Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.