Hearing date set in Ford case

Former State Sen. Robert Ford,D-Charleston (left) talks to his lawyer, William Runyon, during a hearing on ethics charges against him in Columbia in May 2013, just before he resigned. The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday that Ford faces another hearing on May 14.

Former state senator Robert Ford of Charleston will face a lingering ethics complaint next week, even though he resigned from the Senate almost a year ago.

The S.C. Senate Ethics Committee has set a hearing for next Wednesday, May 14 in Columbia to address a complaint filed in January.

Ford resigned from the Senate last May just as the committee had accused him of using campaign money for personal expenses and failing to report numerous expenses, donations and personal loans. Ford also cited his failing health as a reason for stepping down.

His lawyer, Bill Runyon of Charleston, said Tuesday the body is trying to make an example of Ford with this second hearing while other ethics clouds surround the Statehouse.

"With all due respect to Willie Nelson, 'mammas don't let your babies grow up to be politicians,'" Runyon said Tuesday of the attention Ford has drawn.

The lingering complaint is separate from a similar ethics probe that forced the Charleston Democrat to abruptly resign in May.

According to the Senate Ethics Committee's paperwork released in January, the new filings indicate a preliminary investigation found probable cause to support allegations that Ford converted campaign funds to personal use and misrepresented expenses on his campaign disclosure forms.

The document was signed by the committee chairman, Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Conway, and refers to campaign disclosure reports due on July 10 and Oct. 10 of last year - after Ford left office.

Runyon said the matter covers campaign money that Ford converted for use in his role as a community developer.

Runyon called the elements of the new case "boring dry stuff."

Even though Ford is no longer a member of the Senate, Runyon said the committee could issue a fine, or even refer the matter for possible criminal investigation if it deems a deeper investigation is warranted.

Ford had served in the Senate almost two decades before resigning.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551