SC

Letter: On Grand Jury Reforms

Dear Editor:  I feel as though there are a few issues that have arisen this week that need to be further brought to you and your readers’ attention. There is a potentially another major problem growing in the Palmetto State that if it is not corrected could have drastic consequences on…

Dear Editor:  I feel as though there are a few issues that have arisen this week that need to be further brought to you and your readers’ attention. There is a potentially another major problem growing in the Palmetto State that if it is not corrected could have drastic consequences on the South Carolina political landscape for decades to come.

On Monday the 5th you wrote an article praising the new House Speaker Jay Lucas for his teamwork with the Attorney General Alan Wilson in expanding the powers of the Statewide Grand Jury. While I firmly agree that the Statewide Grand Jury system is in desperate need of an overhaul the new Speaker’s bill may cause more problem than it corrects.

Under Speaker Lucas’ bill, H. 3218, the Attorney General is given an immense amount of unchecked power. If passed as proposed, this bill will give the Attorney General unfettered discretion as to many key issues that are necessary to protect the rights of citizens.

For example, the language in section 14-7-1630(c) will be changed from “Where it is determined…” to “When the Attorney General determines…”. Which means that if the bill is passed as filed the Attorney General, and only the Attorney General not a Judge, gets to decide whether or not the Attorney General has a conflict.

In an attempt to take politics out of the Statewide Grand Jury the opposite may have occurred. Not saying that an Attorney General would ever play politics but if he or she ever wanted to the Statewide Grand Jury could become just the vessel for that. This could cause a major issue in the future. In Columbia political circles it is joked that AG stands for “Aspiring Governor” and as we know the previous two Attorneys General, Henry McMaster and Charlie Condon, have both gone on to run for Governor. It is well known in Columbia that the current Attorney General is eyeing the Governor’s Mansion. Not saying that politicians are vindictive and will use whatever means to get ahead but these are things South Carolinians should be aware of before handing over such a massive and unrestricted authority.

This unchecked power along with other startling developments this week needs to make the citizens of South Carolina scratch their heads. On the 7th, it was revealed that an ethics complaint against the Attorney General was dismissed on Christmas Eve based on a technicality. Currently, under South Carolina Law, there is no one to re-exam the alleged illegal activity dealing with alleged violations of campaign law which arose in the complaint.

These alleged campaign violations by Attorney General Wilson, as well as alleged violations by the former Attorney General McMaster, are such that it shouldn’t matter if a complaining witness is available or not. Once this alleged illegal activity is brought to light it needs to be thoroughly investigated.

If the same situation were to occur based on a ruling by the Senate or House Ethics Committees or with any other Constitutional Officer and the SC Ethics Commission the Attorney General could then investigate the complaint not allowing the illegal campaign practices to be swept under the rug based on a technicality. Which to Attorney General Alan Wilson’s credit he did with the S.C. Sen. Robert Ford situation in personally pursuing an indictment from the Richland County Grand Jury. However the Robert Ford situation differs from the situation with the Attorney General because there is no one to really investigate these alleged violations.

Thus this situation exposes another major flaw in the ethics laws in that there is no vehicle to investigate the Attorney General for alleged criminal campaign violations. Under state law, the Attorney General is the only one who could pursue a case against himself (of course the Feds could come in and investigate the AG but as we have seen from history SC should never rely on the Federal government for anything). Still, even if the Attorney General was to initiate a Statewide Grand Jury investigation into this matter under the proposed law he is the only one that could conflict himself out. Additionally, if the Attorney General was to initiate a Statewide Grand Jury investigation on his consultants who “allegedly” helped him “allegedly” break campaign finance laws, he would be the only one who would or could determine if it is a conflict for the Attorney General to investigate the Attorney General’s consultants.

What is even more alarming is that you are the only news outlet/website that will discuss this. Other news outlets as well as “watchdog” organizations seem to not care or worse they are purposely ignoring this based on the fear of repercussions by the powers at be. Nevertheless, this flaw in the system needs to be brought to light in an effort to correct it.

Thank you for your time.

“Akeen Observer”

SIC SEZ

sic speaking

“Akeen:” Interesting observations … appreciate you passing them along.  Not sure whether the current attorney general is “aspiring” to the governor’s office, but one of the individuals you named in this piece certainly appears to be.  Oh well … thanks for your thoughts.

***

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7 comments

Huh??? January 9, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Wait no one can investigate the AG????

Reply
snickering January 10, 2015 at 10:14 am

Check my comment Snickering. As for investigations there are federal agencies,Inspector General’s do this remarkably well. Or just stand around with your hands up saying woe to us, no one cares. Be proactive.

Reply
snickering January 9, 2015 at 7:08 pm

I remember George Schroeder (LAC) audited quite agencies which involved Elected Officials, Treasurer’a Office, Comptroller, Governor Beasley, Mental Health Chief of Staff of Governor Campbell. Pretty much the Legislative Audit Council have access to all agencies. If you want to know Anything about any branch of Government call your elected just call your elected official and ask them ro send a letter to LAC and they will audit it.

Reply
Slartibartfast January 9, 2015 at 8:09 pm

One thing we could do is get rid of all the stupid election laws, and start over. They are so tortured that one can literally break a law while following another. Then, there are the citizens who wrongly think that passing laws is how legislators show they are doing something. Many of those are legislators.

Reply
southmauldin January 9, 2015 at 9:30 pm

Charlie Condon is a piece of shit.

Reply
nitrat January 10, 2015 at 9:27 am

“(of course the Feds could come in and investigate the AG but as we have seen from history SC should never rely on the Federal government for anything).”
As long as Bill Nettles is US Attorney, that appears to be the god’s honest truth.

Reply
Elfego January 11, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Don’t worry,Be happy! Toke another joint America!

Reply

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