SC attorney won’t bring charges in latest round of investment commission feud

abeam@thestate.comOctober 23, 2013 

Reynolds Williams, chairman of the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission.

That’s three ethics investigations down – only two more to go.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington, declined Tuesday to bring charges against Reynolds Williams, chairman of the board that manages the state’s $27 billion retirement fund.

The decision marks the third ethics case Wilson has decided in the last two years.

Last year, Wilson dismissed a similar case involving state Treasurer Curtis Loftis, R-Lexington, and prosecuted former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, R-Florence, who resigned and entered a guilty plea. All that’s left are allegations against S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, and former state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, both being investigated by SLED for possible violations of state ethics laws at the request of the attorney general.

In a letter to SLED, senior assistant deputy attorney general W. Allen Myrick wrote, “Based on my review of this (SLED) report and its attachments, this (attorney general’s) office is declining to proceed” with a case against Williams, a Florence attorney.

The allegations surfaced more than a year ago, when Loftis, who has been feuding with Williams for years over the control and direction of the S.C. Retirement Investment Commission, accused Williams of using his position as a retirement commissioner to steer lucrative state contracts to his law firm.

Just months before, Williams had accused Loftis of using his office for personal gain, allegations that Wilson declined to prosecute following a SLED investigation.

Williams said Wednesday the investigation against him was “abuse of the power by the state treasurer and Loftis’ duties as trustee and fiduciary. Taxpayer money was used to pay for his failed vendetta.”

Loftis spokesman Mark Boone responded that “the treasurer does not want to participate in these types of personal attacks.” But Boone was critical of SLED’s investigation, saying it “wasn’t an investigation that includes subpoenas and sworn testimony.”

A spokesman for Wilson declined to respond to those concerns, adding the attorney general’s letter concerning Williams “speaks for itself.”

Williams said subpoenas were not needed because everyone involved cooperated with investigators.

“Subpoenas are needed only when witnesses are unwilling to talk,” Williams said in an email to The State newspaper. “All commissioners and every other person with knowledge of the circumstance voluntarily submitted to interrogation, some of the most crucial (witnesses) were placed under oath, and all were willing to be placed under oath had the prosecutors desired.”

While Wilson’s office declined to bring charges, it did refer the matter to the State Ethics Commission “for whatever action it deems appropriate,” according to a letter sent to the commission.

“That clearly does not mean that Williams is exonerated,” said Loftis spokesman Boone. The Ethics Commission “has not yet come out with its findings in this case.”

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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