Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell has until Thursday to pay more than $113,000 he used improperly for attorneys fees while fighting the corruption charges against him.
A legislative ethics panel last month ordered Harrell, R-Charleston, to pay the money following his guilty plea and subsequent resignation.
Lawmakers are permitted to use campaign funds for legal fees to defend themselves against ethics accusations. But Harrell’s use of campaign funds was deemed inappropriate in this instance by the House Ethics Committee because he pleaded guilty to criminal charges.
“If he had been found innocent then clearly his attorneys fees were to represent and protect his good name,” ethics committee Chairman Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce, said earlier. “In this case, he was not. It was a criminal case before a Circuit Court. ... And therefore, we deemed it not appropriate based on our advisory opinion that we issued back in 2013.”
Harrell did not respond to a request for comment.
The Charleston Republican was one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers when he pleaded guilty in October to six counts of misusing money from his campaign account. He was spared jail under his plea deal but had to pay a fine of nearly $125,000, turn over remaining campaign funds to the state and is barred from holding public office for three years. The panel’s decision does not affect Harrell’s probation.
The letter informing Harrell about the fine was dated Sept. 1 and gave him 30 days to make payment.
Harrell earlier said the fine was enacted without due process and he was not notified of the panel hearing.