COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The State Ethics Commission says state Treasurer Curtis Loftis violated ethics law when he helped in hiring a long-time friend to represent his office in a lawsuit against the Bank of New York.

In an order released Thursday, commissioners publicly reprimanded Loftis and told him to pay $500.

Loftis says he will appeal the decision.

His critics have long questioned a 2013 settlement of $9 million to the state's two contracted attorneys. Of that, $2 million went to Michael Montgomery, who Loftis helped bring aboard soon after taking office in 2011.

Beyond being a long-time friend, Montgomery was a board member of a charity Loftis founded.

The commission found that violated state law barring public officials from using their position to economically benefit an associate, even if it was unintentional.

Thursday afternoon Loftis issued the following statement: "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."