Ford puts blame on errors


Tyrone Walker

— State Sen. Robert Ford is denying most of the ethics violations he’s accused of but admits accounting errors led to inaccuracies in campaign filings.

Ford also is ready to address individual campaign account expenditures questioned by the Senate Ethics Committee, according to an initial response filed by Ford’s attorney Bill Runyon with the panel last week.

Ford, a Charleston Democrat, is facing allegations that he used campaign donations for personal expense, misrepresented expenses as campaign-related, reported incorrect amounts for what he spent, and failed to report numerous expenses, donations and personal loans.

After the initial response had already been sent to the committee last week, the panel announced an additional allegation against Ford, accusing him of intentionally altering documents to deceive the committee.

The panel alleges the various violations occurred over the past four years.

In the new response, Ford admits the campaign account filings in question are not accurate due to accounting errors.

The filing does not go into detail on the errors.

Ford also admits in the response that he failed to properly enter loans to his campaign in ethics filings.

As a result, the payments on the loans “while ... legitimate for purposes of accounting, appear to be improper,” Ford’s response states.

Ford is ready to respond to questions from the committee about individual expenditures, according to his response.

For example only, the filing states, Ford is prepared to show that expenses with SCE&G for a Barrett Road address are appropriate because his district and campaign offices are located there.

Runyon stressed Monday that the initial filing will be followed up with a more detailed response to come once he has been provided all the documents the committee has related to its allegations.

Documents related to the committee’s allegations have not been made public.

Runyon said one piece of evidence he already has received is a large box of bank records dating back to 2009.

In the filing, Ford asks the committee for more time to respond to allegations that involve subpoenaed materials he hasn’t received yet.

Ford wants the committee to extend the response period to 15 days from the last allegation made by the committee, which came on May 2.

Ford and Runyon will have the opportunity to appear at an open hearing where committee members ultimately will determine whether Ford has violated ethics law. A date for that hearing has not been set.

Runyon said Monday that the plan is for the hearing to be held some time before the Legislature adjourns on June 6.

Follow Stephen Largen on Twitter at @stephenlargen.