Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division could soon announce if it plans to launch a criminal investigation into House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
Attorney General Alan Wilson's office asked for that investigation after receiving information from the South Carolina Policy Council questioning Harrell's ethics.
"The public can't touch this politician. The general public, for the most part has not control over the Speaker of the House," said SC Policy Council President Ashley Landress in a January interview.
Landess has been sounding the alarm about ethics in South Carolina for some time now, but now she has also raised questions about Harrell's actions.
She asked Wilson's office to investigate Harrell, saying she thinks the House Ethics Committee can't look into the claims because it would create too many conflicts of interest, including staff members who report to Harrell and the fact that he would have to hire and authorize payment of an independent investigator.
"This politician has unchecked uncontrolled, unparalleled power in South Carolina. This man controls, again, billions of dollars. He almost unilaterally controls the budget process behind closed doors, that we have the highest degree of concentration of power and secrecy... That's the recipe for corruption," said Landess during that January interview.
At that time, she also referenced emails that seem to indicate Harrell used his position as Speaker of the House to further the interests of his business, Palmetto State Pharmaceuticals. The Charleston company repackages drugs, which allows clinics and medical practices to offer drugs to clients and skip a trip to the pharmacy.
"He asks for urgent attention to a permit and that letter is sent on his speaker's letter head.) Discussions among pharmacy board members who feel like he was pressuring them to have phone calls, that he was angry about some issue that had come before the board, and indeed stated very clearly in one of the emails that he was making this different that it felt different to them," said Landess last month.
Before the attorney general called for a SLED investigation, Harrell was asked if he used his position to benefit his business.
"Of course not, I've talked to other state agencies just like any other business owner talks to state agencies about rules and regulations and how are you supposed to proceed and they've answered those questions for me," said Harrell.
He also says that the note requesting action being written on his letter head was a mistake by a staffer.
Harrell called the situation a baseless attack driven by a political vendetta. He says his accusers have a lack of facts and substance in their efforts to conduct a smear campaign against him.