Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, facing indictment by a state Grand Jury for ethics violations, has resigned -- handing the office to state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, and the post of Senate president pro tempore.
The resignation comes after a nine month investigation by a state Grand Jury into ethics violations, including allegations Ard used campaign money to buy personal items, including iPads, clothes, football tickets and a TV. Attorney General Alan Wilson and SLED Chief Mark Keel have a news conference scheduled for this afternoon.
“During my campaign, it was my responsibility to make sure things were done correctly. I did not do that. There are no excuses nor is there need to share blame. It is my fault that the events of the past year have taken place,” Ard said in a news release. “ I regret the distraction this has caused for the people of this state, my family, my staff, and other elected officials in South Carolina. It is because of these mistakes that I must take full ownership and resign from the Office of Lieutenant Governor. Once again, I am deeply sorry and take full responsibility for the entire situation.”
Brant Branham, Ard’s chief of staff, hand delivered the resignation to Haley’s office at 9:55 a.m. Tim Pearson, Haley’s chief of staff, received the letter for the governor, who is attending a conference out of state.
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Stepping into the role is McConnell, who is giving up one of the most powerful positions in all of state government for a mostly ceremonial role whose only duties are to preside over the Senate and run the state Office on Aging.
Speaking with reporters after a closed-door meeting in his State House office, McConnell said becoming lieutenant governor is “a personal sacrifice” but his reading of the state constitution makes it clear that the Senate President Pro Tem has a duty to become lieutanant governor when the post is permanently vacated.
“After much thought, prayer and discussion, I have decided that I have a moral obligation to my oath of office and to the constitution of this state,” McConnell said in a prepared statement. “It is an obligation that compels me to do the right thing no matter how difficult it may be to me personally.”
McConnell said he expects be sworn in on Tuesday. McConnell would not say who his preference was to replace him as the leader of the Senate, and he did not rule out the possibility of running for his state Senate seat again in four years.
With McConnell becoming lieutenant governor, the focus now shifts on who will lead the Senate. In addition to his role as president pro tempore, McConnell was chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which vetted most of the Senate’s bills. That chairmanship, by Senate rules, now falls to Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens.
Martin was chairman of the Senate’s rules committee.
It’s unclear who would run to replace McConnell as president of the Senate. Candidates could include Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, and Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, who ischairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Gov. Nikki Haley, in a prepared statement, said she valued Ard’s partnership and “wish Ken and his family all the best going forward.”
State Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly, on Facebook, said Ard’s resignation “will help our state move past this sad and unfortunate incident.”
Read Ard’s full statement below:
“I want to thank the great people of South Carolina for the incredible opportunity to serve as their Lieutenant Governor. It truly has been an honor and an experience I will never forget. The love and support you have shown my entire family has been humbling and something I will always remember.
“I also want to thank my family, especially my wife, Tammy, and my three children, Jesse, Mason, and Libby. You have lived this experience with me. There were challenges and setbacks, but you were steadfast in your support and were there for me at every turn.
“To those who volunteered and worked on our campaign, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You were always there and never expected anything in return.
“To my staff, I have nothing but praise. Your professionalism and work ethic have been exemplary from day one. You have remained focused on carrying out the duties of our office in spite of other distractions.
“To all of the above and more, I owe a great apology. During my campaign, it was my responsibility to make sure things were done correctly. I did not do that. There are no excuses nor is there need to share blame. It is my fault that the events of the past year have taken place.
“I regret the distraction this has caused for the people of this state, my family, my staff, and other elected officials in South Carolina. It is because of these mistakes that I must take full ownership and resign from the Office of Lieutenant Governor. Once again, I am deeply sorry and take full responsibility for the entire situation.”
Lt. Gov. Ken Ard’s resignation letter to Gov. Nikki Haley:
List of South Carolina lieutenant governors
Grand Jury indictment of Ken Ard