COLUMBIA — A religious group run by Gov. Nikki Haley’s father and a blogger have settled a defamation lawsuit, according to documents obtained by The State.
The blogger, Logan Smith, issued an apology to Ajit Randhawa, president of the Sikh Religious Society of South Carolina, and revealed his sources for his March 2012 posts, according to the settlement.
Smith, a former television news producer who ran the now defunct Palmetto Public Record blog, wrote the Sikh Religious Society was engaged in “shady finances” and money was missing, according to the lawsuit.
He also wrote Haley was facing an indictment on tax fraud charges stemming from her role in handling the society’s finances, basing his report on “two well-placed legal experts.”
Smith’s report came after revealing the Internal Revenue Service was auditing the society’s 2009 tax records. After the blog posts and news reports, the governor’s office released an IRS letter that said, “We have determined an examination is not warranted at this time.”
No charges were filed against Haley or her father. Haley never handled the society’s finances, her campaign spokesman said.
“I was wrong. I realize and believe the story about the Sikh Religious Society was incorrect,” Smith wrote in his apology to Randhawa and the society. “I hope you find it in your heart to forgive what I assure you was an honest mistake.”
Smith’s said in the settlement that his sources for the posts were a political website, a television reporter and public court filings.
Smith did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The two sides paid for their own legal fees.
“I am very happy to be putting this matter behind me, and hold no ill will whatsoever toward the Sikh Society as an organization or the Sikh religion as a whole,” Smith said in a statement to The State.
Butch Bowers, the Columbia attorney for the Sikh Religious Society, said in a statement he was “glad to see Mr. Smith apologize and admit that his story was entirely fabricated.”