By Paul Gable
Earlier this week, S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis was fined $500 and reprimanded by the S.C. Ethics Commission for a supposed violation of state ethics law.
The ethics commission found Loftis made an “inadvertent” and “unintentional” violation when he hired attorney Michael Montgomery to assist in a lawsuit the treasurer brought against Bank of New York Mellon related to the bank’s fees and handling of investments associated with the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission.
Montgomery and Loftis both sit on the Board of Trustees of the Saluda Charitable Trust, a connection the ethics commissioners said created the conflict.
Loftis said he will appeal the decision and fine.
In response to the ethics commission decision, Loftis stated, “While I am gratified that the commission acknowledged this alleged violation was inadvertent and unintentional, I will appeal this decision and the $500 administrative fee. This was a subjective and unprecedented ruling – and I fear that letting it stand would impose burdens upon the selfless service of thousands of people across the state that devote their time to nonprofit boards and organizations.
“This action was filed by cronies of the SC Investment Commission, the same Commission that lost $7 billion of the public’s money through their disastrous investment decisions. I blew the whistle on their unbelievably poor performance and this is just one part of their retribution. South Carolinians know the sorry state of their government and they have twice elected me to fight for them in Columbia. This decision will not keep me from my duties to the people… I work for them and not the handful of rich and powerful elites that run our state.”
This is the latest in a string of allegations thrown at Loftis to attempt to have him stop criticizing the SCRSIC.
Loftis was subjected to allegations in 2011 that he and Mallory Factor were partners in what was called a “pay to play” scheme involving state retirement funds.
Despite the best efforts of members of the SC Retirement System Investment Commission, Gov. Nikki Haley, then state senator Greg Ryberg and others, Loftis was cleared of all allegations by SLED and the SC Attorney General’s office.
A couple of years later, Loftis was censured by the same SCRSIC he serves on for “false, deceitful and misleading rhetoric.”
At the time, Loftis said the commission members didn’t like him looking under rocks and asking questions about investments made by commission staff.
After that censure, the CEO of the investment commission, Michael Hitchcock, told members of a Senate committee that the returns of the state pension fund have “underperformed” in recent years. This is exactly what Loftis has alleged since taking office in January 2011.
Earlier this year, Loftis summed up the results of his efforts at reform, “I’ve found, after 6 years of battling the system, that there is no “infrastructure” for change. The levers of power are managed by and tilted in favor of a status quo that is controlled by a handful of people…The system is rigged in favor of a small number of powerful people and their rich cronies that control our government.”