House Ethics, Nikki Haley, and I Don’t Recall
By Paul Gable
“With all due respect, Mr. Rainey is a racist, sexist bigot who has tried everything in his power to hurt me and my family,” Gov. Nikki Haley told the S.C. House Ethics Committee.
That statement sums up the performance Haley put on for the committee. Combined with what came off as an innocent little girl act, Haley got away with character assassination while Rainey was never called to testify.
This was not an adversarial hearing. Rainey’s complaint was not represented by anyone. Even the attorneys hired by the House to “present” the case did not advocate Rainey’s complaints.
Although not listed on the witness list, Haley was called as a witness by her attorney Butch Bowers. There was no complaint against her testifying by the other side. And Rainey, a lawyer himself, built up a convincing case in his complaint but was never called to present it, defend it or explain it. No accusing witnesses were called.
It’s not even accurate to call Bowers a defense attorney for Haley in the proceedings because there was no prosecution.
Haley was led through her testimony by her attorney and it was way beyond the bounds of what would be allowed in any court room. But, this wasn’t a court room. It was a show to say the committee had done something while it was really doing nothing.
The committee was almost licking Haley’s shoes after her testimony. It was obvious the fix was in from the beginning.
When asked who was paying her attorneys to represent her before the committee, Haley said it was not state funds. Asked if she was personally paying them, Haley said, “I’m not sure what fund it is coming out of, but I’m sure they are being paid.”
Prior to the Haley testimony, we did learn some things about Haley’s employment while a representative. We did learn that both Wilbur Smith Associates and the Lexington Medical Center were willing to pay Rep. Nikki Haley relatively large amounts for what appears to be not a lot of work.
According to testimony, Haley applied to a job as an accountant with Wilbur Smith Associates in 2006. She was determined to be overqualified and “not the right fit” for the job, but was offered a position as a “passive consultant” for $2,500 per month. The position was effectively created in order to contract with Haley.
Haley held the position from October 2006 through September 2008. Her duties were described to the committee as attending business and social functions to see if she could hear of any projects on which Wilbur Smith could submit proposals on. During the last part of her employment, Haley’s remuneration was reduced to $1,000 per month.
According to Robert Farrell, Vice President and Client Service Manager for Wilbur Smith, Haley was paid $48,000 over a period of 23 months with nothing being brought to the company by Haley that resulted in business for Wilbur Smith.
According to Farrell, Haley was hired to prospect in the private business area, although only about five percent of Wilbur Smith’s business comes from private projects. Later in his testimony, Farrell amended that statement to include local government projects also, but not state level projects.
Farrell also denied that Haley was hired to help with the state farmer’s market project in Richland County, one Wilbur Smith already had a contract for before she was hired, but was beginning to run into trouble at the time she was hired. Ultimately, the Richland County farmer’s market project was cancelled by the state officially in July 2008 and Haley’s services were terminated shortly thereafter.
Haley was asked about two votes on the farmer’s market one she recused herself from and one she did not. The second vote taken in April 2008, when she did not recuse, established a settlement approval between the state and Wilbur Smith. In Haley’s testimony, she said she did not need to recuse herself because the project between Wilbur Smith and the state had ended.
When questioned later, Haley stuck to her story and, even though there was an obvious contradiction, between her testimony and the record, it was allowed to pass.
In August 2008, Haley approached Lexington Medical Center CEO Michael Biediger for a position as a consultant to raise money for the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.
Biediger testified he created a new position for Haley. According to his testimony, Biediger stated Haley was an employee of the Lexington Medical Center whose duties were strictly limited to fundraising for the Lexington Medical Center Foundation. She was paid $110,000 per year with the Lexington Medical Center treating her salary as a donation in kind to the foundation.
Biediger also testified that the employees whose duties were with the Lexington Medical Center Foundation were typically hired by the foundation executive director, but Haley’s employment was a “special case.”
Haley had a different story. She stated that her experience as a fundraiser for the foundation while a board member led executive director Anthony Meyer to ask Biediger to hire her. This is in direct contradiction to Biediger’s testimony, however nobody called her on it.
So goes ethics investigations in South Carolina. It was another example that there really are no ethics laws in the state. Anything goes and usually does.
Any question that the fix wasn’t in before this hearing started?