Did S.C. Ethics Commission Break the Law?

By Paul Gable

A request for a judge to rule the S.C. Ethics Commission violated the state’s FOIA law has been entered in a lawsuit brought against the commission by the S.C. Public Interest Foundation.

The motion for summary judgment results from the S.C. Ethics Commission’s apparent attempts to hide the contents of a letter to Gov. Nikki Haley from commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood.

In the letter, Hazelwood requested Haley to reimburse the state for the cost of travel for Haley and her campaign staff to a fundraising event in North Carolina last year.

When the internet publication “The Nerve” requested a copy of the letter from the commission, it was reportedly told by commission director Herb Hayden, “No letter was sent to Gov. Haley.”

This statement later proved to be false when, two months later, an FOIA request was sent to the commission requesting email correspondence between the commission and Haley attorney Butch Bowers.

The resultant response to the second FOIA request included a copy of the signed letter as an attachment.

The letter that didn’t exist all of a sudden appeared as an attachment to another document!

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this chain of events is the S.C. Ethics Commission lied in its response to the foundation about the letter.

This brings us to the state of government both in South Carolina and throughout the nation.

Government agencies attempt to avoid responding to FOIA requests that could provide potentially embarrassing or damaging information about government agencies and officials.

These agencies will force the public to go to court to obtain information that should be readily available through normal FOIA and other channels. They count on the public not being willing to spend money hiring an attorney to obtain information about the government.

Even if those requesting the information are willing to go through the court system, the time delay is often a year or more. Government secrecy is maintained for as long as possible and government officials are apparently willing to break the law to do it.

For a more complete description of the lawsuit, click here: http://thenerve.org/news/2014/09/01/destroyed-letter/


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