By Paul Gable
The S.C. Ethics Commission and its executive director Herb Hayden have been sued by The South Carolina Public Interest Foundation for violating the FOIA law by “responding with a falsehood.”
The foundation, a Greenville based government watchdog organization, and its founder Ned Sloan have been very successful over the years filing lawsuits against government agencies and officials for violating state law.
The lawsuit evolves from an attempt by internet media outlet TheNerve.org to obtain a copy of a letter that ethics commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood sent to Gov. Nikki Haley directing the governor to reimburse the state for travels costs associated with a fundraising event.
Hayden, who is appointed to his position by the nine-member ethics commission, all of whom are appointees of the governor, subsequently cancelled the request for reimbursement claiming the event was a fundraiser for a non-profit organization. This, despite the fact that Haley received over $30,000 in political contributions during the event.
When The Nerve requested a copy of Hazelwood’s letter to Haley, Hayden reportedly first claimed all copies were destroyed. When caught in this falsehood, he claimed the copy sent to Haley’s lawyer was “a draft” and not subject to the FOIA request.
Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, called the ethics commission arguments “ridiculous.”
Subsequent to the events surrounding this controversy, Haley, Hayden and SLED chief Mark Keel signed a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining significantly reduced circumstances under which Haley would have to reimburse the state. There is no legal basis for the memorandum, but count on Haley to use it as justification for using state vehicles and state personnel in her campaign meanderings this fall.
Read a full account of the controversy at: http://thenerve.org/news/2014/03/12/Ethics-lawsuit/