Investigation into complaint leads to Horry County lawmaker’s resignation

State Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach, shown in 2009, resigned Tuesday after an investigation of a complaint about inappropriate behavior.

COLUMBIA — A veteran state lawmaker abruptly resigned late Tuesday after he was presented with the results of an investigation into “inappropriate activity” involving his conduct.

Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach, said in a brief letter to House Speaker Jay Lucas that he would resign effective 5 p.m. Tuesday. Multiple lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hardwick resigned because of allegations of sexual harassment.

State Law Enforcement Division Spokesman Thom Berry said Wednesday afternoon that the Attorney General’s Office requested SLED “investigate allegations involving a member of the House of Representatives. We are beginning the preliminary inquiry at this time.” Berry declined to elaborate further.

“It is with a heavy heart that I hereby submit this letter of resignation from my seat,” Hardwick wrote. “For personal reasons, I feel as though I should step away from life in public service to take some time to focus on my health. Serving in the South Carolina House has been one of the single greatest highlights of my life. It has been an honor and privilege to represent the people of Horry County for the past 10 years.”

The office of House Speaker Jay Lucas confirmed that a complaint was received against Hardwick on April 30 and the outcome of the office’s investigation led to Hardwick’s resignation. Hardwick was presented with the results of the investigation late Tuesday.

“Any inappropriate activity related to the men, women and staff that serve in the House chamber has been and will continue to be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously,” Lucas said. “Each of us have been entrusted with the opportunity to serve the public and that trust must never be called into question.”

The nature of the investigation was not released, but Lucas’ office is expected to release documents related to the case on Thursday.

Phone messages left for Hardwick were not returned Tuesday and Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, said Wednesday afternoon in an email that a special primary election to fill Hardwick’s seat will be held on July 28.