Haley brings call for ethics reform to Myrtle Beach

mprabhu@thesunnews.comDecember 4, 2013 

— Gov. Nikki Haley stopped in Myrtle Beach Wednesday where she continued to ask S.C. residents to urge their elected officials to support an ethics reform bill that would require public disclosure of their sources of outside income.

The measure, which passed the House last session but did not make it through the Senate, also would remove the current system of lawmakers investigating each other when accused of ethics breaches. There are 47 states that require lawmakers to disclose the sources of their personal income.

About a dozen local Republican lawmakers and party leaders joined Haley Wednesday at Myrtle Beach City Hall, pushing the need for ethics reform. Haley has been touring the state since last month, taking her case to her constituents.

“There’s never been a better time for ethics reform than right now,” she said, pointing the state being ranked 45 for corruption risk by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity. “You need to know who is paying your elected officials.”

The issue will be first on the state Senate’s calendar when they return for the new legislative session in January, she said.

Prominent S.C. politicians have faced ethics questions in recent years – including Haley – and former Attorney General Henry McMaster said that poses problems for the state’s success. McMaster worked with Travis Medlock, another former attorney general, to craft the bill.

“One thing that can hold us back is our reputation for ethics,” McMaster said. “Ethics laws must be strong enough and punish those who break them.”

Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Little River, said the case for ethics reform is “overwhelming.”

“It’s appalling that you have the House and Senate investigating and prosecuting their own members,” he said.

The bill would create an independent ethics commission that would investigate complaints filed against lawmakers. Lawmakers would have final say on any punishment.

Haley has been questioned for not disclosing more than $40,000 that she was paid by a Columbia engineering firm while she was a member of the House, deleting emails from her state email account, paying and ethics fine for not reporting the addresses of some contributors and reimbursing the state for using state-owned vehicles for campaigning.

The House Ethics Committee cleared Haley of any wrongdoing for not reporting the $40,000 consulting fee and the state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit concerning the nondisclosure.

Ethics is expected to be an issue in the 2014 governor’s race, in which Haley is running for her second term.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.

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