University of South Carolina Harris Pastides was one of the people who testified this week before the State Grand Jury in a secret session involving a public corruption probe at the State House.
“He was called as a fact witness,” university spokesman Wes Hickman told The State newspaper Thursday morning in answer to a query.
Also appearing before the State Grand Jury was Charles “Chuck” Beaman, the CEO of Columbia area hospital giant Palmetto Health, according to sources familiar with the probe.
The hospital system declined to comment about Beaman’s appearance.
USC’s Hickman declined to answer further questions about Pastides’ appearance.
USC and Palmetto Health are two of a number of high-profile institutions and trade groups identified as having given money to political consulting firm Richard Quinn & Associates, money that was routed to Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, special prosecutor David Pascoe alleged during a May court hearing.
Rick Quinn, the son of Richard Quinn, in May was indicted on two counts of misconduct in office for receiving some $4.5 million in payments directed though various firms including, Richard Quinn & Associates, to influence his work in the General Assembly, court documents allege.
Rick Quinn has been suspended from office. He is pleading not guilty.
Richard Quinn has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Hospital officials Thursday issued this statement when asked about Beaman’s appearance before the State Grand Jury:
“Palmetto Health has used the services of Richard Quinn & Associates and many other consultants over the years. Any further comment on this matter is inappropriate,” said the statement issued by spokeswoman Tammie Epps.
The hospital also refused to divulge how much money it had paid to Richard Quinn & Associates over the years.
Other groups named in the May court hearing by Pascoe as having hired Richard Quinn & Associates include the Cayce-based SCANA, telecom giant AT&T, BlueCross BlueShield, the S.C. Trial Lawyers Association, the payday lending industry and the Charleston-based S.C. Ports Authority.
According to contracts that USC had with Richard Quinn, USC paid the firm $491,900 from 2011 to 2015 – more than $8,000 a month – for public relations and consulting work.
Various state agencies, private companies and trade groups had similar arrangements with the Quinn firm.
The probe is thought to be focused on what kind of work, exactly, the Quinn firm did, how it was done and how much the company was paid by people and entities it did business with.
In March, the State Law Enforcement Division raided the Quinn offices in downtown Columbia on Gervais Street and seized a trove of documents thought to contain details of Quinn business affairs.
That included "governance and regulatory approval – presentations, messaging, strategic planning, crisis management, public opinion tracking, long-term university marketing and branding among South Carolina’s opinion, community, business and government leadership."
Palmetto Health has one of South Carolina’s largest workforces, with some 15,000 employees and volunteers, including about 1,000 doctors. Its seven hospitals have more than 1,800 beds and include Palmetto Health Baptist, Palmetto Health Richland, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
USC, with a main campus in Columbia, is the state’s largest university. It has 25,556 undergraduate students and 8,543 graduate students.