Ethics Probe

Haley not subpoenaed for hearing

But governor still could testify before House panel

ashain@thestate.comJune 14, 2012 

  • Haley hearings

    The S.C. House Ethics Committee issued subpoenas and document requests Thursday in its investigation into allegations of illegal lobbying against Gov. Haley. hearings start June 28:

    Who was subpoenaed?

    John Rainey, GOP activist who filed the complaint; Mike Biediger, chief executive of Lexington Medical Center; Dan Jones, the hospital’s board chairman; Thad Westbrook, a former hospital board chairman; Billy Boan, a lobbyist for the hospital; Robert Ferrell, vice president of CDM Smith; Duncan McIntosh, general counsel at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina; James D’Alessio, BlueCross’ vice president for government affairs; Earl Hunter, former DHEC commissioner; Greg Harris, former S.C. Ethics Commission chairman; and Tony Denny, a lobbyist.

    What documents were requested?

    Wilbur Smith (now CDM Smith): Contracts with the S.C. Department of Agriculture related to the State Farmers Market from 2004-10 and the S.C. Department of Transportation from 2007-09.

    Lexington Medical Center: Haley’s employment files and correspondence about the terms of her employment, obtaining contributions, any legislation before the General Assembly between 2007-10, and efforts to open a heart-surgery center. Also any of Haley’s communications with DHEC and S.C. Health Planning Commission.

    Lexington Medical Center Foundation: Same as the hospital plus tax forms and lists of expenditures from 2006-10 as well as contributions by 13 companies from 2005-12.

    BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Time Warner Cable and Tony Denny: Correspondence from 2007-10 about Haley and solicitations for contributions to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.

    Legislative Printing, Information and Technology Systems: Emails from Haley’s legislative account from 2006-10 about Lexington Medical Center and its foundation.

Though Gov. Nikki Haley was not among the 11 people subpoenaed Thursday by the S.C. House Ethics Committee, the first-term Republican has not ruled out testifying at a hearing into allegations that she illegally lobbied while a representative from Lexington County, her office said.

Haley was interviewed by lawyers presenting the case Wednesday, the governor’s office said. Ethics Committee members, who will start their hearing June 28, were not present.

The governor’s office referred questions about the interview to the lawyers representing the House in the proceeding. They could not be reached for comment.

“The governor has cooperated entirely with the committee since this process started in March, and the last few weeks have been no different,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Thursday. “Everything they’ve asked for, we’ve provided, and when it ends, everyone will see what we’ve said all along: There’s absolutely nothing to any of this."

If found guilty by the House committee, Haley could be fined or the case against her could be referred to the S.C. attorney general to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

The Ethics Committee subpoenaed 11 people on Thursday, based on the recommendations of attorneys representing the House and the governor. Committee members did not offer a reason why Haley was not subpoenaed; they voted to place a gag order on themselves immediately after approving the witness list.

The committee subpoenaed executives with two companies who employed or paid Haley while she was in the Legislature – Columbia’s Wilbur Smith & Associates engineering firm and Lexington Medical Center and its foundation. It also subpoenaed former lobbyists and former government officials.

Committee members also voted to get testimony from John Rainey, the GOP activist who filed the original complaint against Haley. Rainey declined to comment.

The committee requested some of Haley’s legislative emails as well as her employment records and correspondence from the hospital and engineering firm.

Also sought are records from the hospital foundation, where Haley was a fundraiser, and 13 companies – including Michelin, Bank of America, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Time Warner Cable and payday lenders Advance America and Check into Cash – that made donations to that foundation.

Those subpoenaed include:

Mike Biediger, chief executive of Lexington Medical Center, where Haley worked as a foundation fundraiser; Dan Jones, the hospital’s board chairman; Thad Westbrook, a former hospital board chairman; and former state Rep. Billy Boan, a lobbyist for the hospital.

Haley is accused of trying to win legislative votes needed to approve Lexington’s new heart-surgery center and using her legislative post to solicit contributions for its foundation from corporate lobbyists. The governor’s attorneys have said she was working for constituents in Lexington County when gathering support for the heart center and did not break the law in soliciting donations for the foundation.

Earl Hunter, former commissioner of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which regulates hospitals. He likely will be asked about Haley’s efforts with regulators to help Lexington Medical win the heart-surgery center.

Robert Ferrell, vice president of CDM Smith, the successor firm to Wilbur Smith, which hired Haley as a consultant. Haley is accused trying to win state work for Wilbur Smith, including work on a new State Farmers Market. The governor attorneys have said she was trying to get private and county work for the engineering firm.

Two BlueCross officials -- general counsel Duncan McIntosh and vice president for government affairs James D’Alessio. They likely will be asked about donations the insurer made to the hospital foundation.

Some of the witnesses subpoenaed were suggested in Rainey’s complaint to the committee. But the committee did not subpoena a number of potential witnesses that Rainey suggested, including BlueCross lobbyist Larry Marchant, who previously alleged he had an affair with Haley that she has denied; state Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, an engineer; and Hugh Weathers, state Agriculture commissioner who oversaw the Farmers Market project.

The committee asked for emails from Haley’s legislative account from 2006-10, when she was a House member, concerning Lexington Medical and its foundation. It also requested Haley’s employment documents and correspondence from CDM Smith and Lexington Medical and its foundation.

The committee also wants correspondence from BlueCross and Time Warner Cable about solicitations that Haley made seeking donations for the hospital’s foundation.

The Ethics Committee, made up of five Republicans and a Democrat, is the jury in the case, though members will be allowed to ask questions of witnesses.

The Ethics Committee had closed the case against the governor last month but voted to reopen the investigation after receiving more information about Haley’s work for Lexington Medical, where she earned $110,000 a year as a foundation fundraiser, and Wilbur Smith, which paid her $42,500 as a consultant.

A sitting governor never before has been the subject of an ethics investigation in the S.C. House. Haley’s case is being heard by legislators because the allegations stem from her time as a Republican state representative.

Staff writer Gina Smith contributed.

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