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Nikki Haley's income reporting differs in records

Then-state Rep. Nikki Haley's application for a job at Lexington Medical Center reported she earned $125,000 a year - more than five times the amount that Haley, now S.C. governor, said she earned on her federal tax returns.

That application also said Haley expected to be paid that same amount - $125,000 a year, according to hospital documents obtained in a public records request.

Haley's federal tax returns show she was paid $22,000 by her parents' clothing store, Exotica International, during 2007.

In 2008, Lexington Medical hired Haley, then under financial pressure, for a $110,000-a-year fundraising job, created specifically for her, despite her lack of fundraising experience.

Gov. Haley's chief of staff, Tim Pearson, denied Tuesday that Haley misrepresented her earning record to Lexington Medical.

"It is illogical," he said. "It just doesn't make sense."

Haley's August 2008 application to become a fundraiser was included in more than 70 pages of records that Lexington Medical turned over to The State newspaper regarding Haley's employment from August 2008 until April of last year.

The newspaper requested the documents after a political blog said Republican activist and Haley critic John Rainey had requested information from Lexington Medical via a freedom of information act request.

Pearson noted the job application document containing information about salary history and expectations, dated Aug. 5, 2008, is not hand-signed by the then-state representative from Lexington - as was an accompanying form authorizing a background check.

The document says the applicant's typed name or signature constitutes a signature, and includes details such as Haley's previous employers, their addresses and supervisors, and names and phone numbers of references.

Haley also hand-signed or initialed at least five other hiring documents in the records that Lexington Medical produced.

"She never said that she made $125,000 from Exotica," Pearson said Tuesday, "and the application does not have her signature on it. ... The governor did not fill out the application that has her making $125,000 a year.

"It is illogical that a single person would fill out two pieces of paperwork for the same job, on the same day, and only hand-sign one of them. It just doesn't make sense. She didn't sign it because she didn't fill it out."

Pearson also noted one page of the application did not include a file stamp, as the other pages did.

Efforts to reach hospital officials after business hours Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Haley's $110,000-a-year job as fundraiser came under scrutiny during the campaign after the hospital told The State that it created the position for Haley, whose only prior work experience was working for her parents and a short stint accounting for a Charlotte recycling firm.

Haley was paid a higher salary than others in similar positions at nonprofits of similar size or geography, according to a salary survey compiled by the S.C. Association of Nonprofit Organizations. Haley's $110,000 salary was 63 percent higher than the highest fundraiser salary - $67,500 - among organizations with budgets that are similar in size to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation. The average salary for the same position among those surveyed was $44,195.

The hospital hired Haley as it tried to secure state approval to build a heart surgery center. Haley never voted on the center as a lawmaker after her hiring. The center was approved earlier this year.

Haley left the Lexington Medical position last spring, as she was ramping up her campaign for the GOP nomination for governor. E-mails from that period show hospital executives were having difficulty consistently reaching Haley and asked her to take a leave of absence.

Haley refused, eventually hiring an attorney and negotiating a $35,210 settlement with the hospital. Records show the hospital presented Haley with specific job duties in December 2009, which included attending regular foundation staff and hospital board meetings and spending at least 10 hours a week in the foundation's offices.

According to the Lexington Medical job application, Exotica International was Haley's most recent employer, with her ending salary at "$125,000." A question about what Haley expected to be paid in her next post was answered "$125,000."

Lexington Medical Center hired Haley for $110,000 a year.

But according to federal tax returns that Haley allowed reporters to review during the campaign, she reported earning $22,000 from Exotica for all of 2007 and earned similar amounts in 2006 and 2005. In the six years of tax records Haley allowed reporters to review, the most she ever reported earning from Exotica was $46,000 in 2004.

"We did not verify Nikki Haley's salary at Exotica," Lexington Medical spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said. "The hospital knew her from her work in the community, and Exotica was a family business."

In September, Wilson said the hospital sought no outside advice in setting Haley's salary. Wilson did not respond to a question about what role the pay reported on Haley's job application played in her Lexington Medical salary.

Haley's application makes no mention of her consulting work with or income from Wilbur Smith Associates, a Columbia engineering firm. Haley was paid $42,500 between 2007 and 2009 by the firm.

Haley has proposed lawmakers and state officials disclose their income sources, including consulting work, but did not reveal her consulting income until asked by the media.

Wilson said Haley's work with Wilbur Smith would not have affected the hospital's decision to hire the then-state representative.

At the time that Lexington Medical hired Haley, her family's income was stretched.

Tax records show Haley and her husband, Michael, had significant swings in income, with Michael Haley's bartering business losing more than $20,000, combined, in 2006 and 2007.

In 2006, the family reported a total income of $40,269, half going to pay the interest on their $289,000 home mortgage alone.

The Haleys also repeatedly filed and paid their income taxes late, accruing more than $4,000 in interest and penalties.