S.C. Speaker Suspends Self Following Charges

     CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell suspended himself from the state General Assembly this morning, one day after being charged with spending nearly $300,000 in campaign funds on himself and others.
     “I am proactively taking this step because I believe it is the right decision for the South Carolina House of Representative, its members and the people we represent,” Harrell letter said in a letter delivered to the Clerk of the House.
     “I have great respect for this institution and the people of South Carolina. I have always sought to act in their best interest and continue to do so now by taking this action and suspending myself from office,” Harrell said.
     Under South Carolina Code 8-13-560, a member of the General Assembly who has been charged with a felony, a crime that involves moral turpitude, a crime that has a sentence of two or more years, or one that violates elections laws must immediately by suspended without pay by the presiding officer of the House or Senate, as appropriate.
     The suspension remains in effect until the public official in question is acquitted, convicted, or pleads guilty or no contest.
     In the event of an acquittal or dismissal of the charges, the official is entitled to reinstatement and back pay under the law.
     Harrell was charged yesterday with helping himself to nearly $300,000 in campaign funds and then allegedly altering travel and reimbursement records to cover his tracks.
     According to Solicitor David Pascoe, who announced the findings of a Richland County Grand Jury, Harrell paid himself $294,335 in untaxed income, claiming that the payments were for legislative or campaign expenses.
     “These payments included approximately $98,958.50 converted to the defendant’s personal use for expenses of Defendant’s privately owned airplane,” Pascoe said. “The payments include approximately $96,381.46 for legislative travel despite the fact that some of the travel expenditures were personal in nature.”
     “Furthermore,” Pascoe continued, “the Defendant obtained these travel ‘reimbursements’ despite the fact he also received payment for some of these travel expenses from other sources.”
     “These unlawful payments also included approximately $70,286.46 for salary paid to his Administrative Assistant for his privately owned State Farm Insurance business,” he added.
     Harrell has vehemently denied the charges, maintaining, “I have said all along that I have never intentionally violated any law, and I still strongly believe that statement to be accurate.”

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