SHOULD SHE HAVE THAT POWER?
Let’s be clear: S.C. eleventh circuit solicitor Donnie Myers and Richland County, S.C. councilman Kelvin Washington are bad dudes – and not just because they both got popped for driving under the influence within the last few days (here and here).
Both are corrupt … and both should have resigned from office in the aftermath of their recent arrests.
Unfortunately, they didn’t … angering S.C. governor Nikki Haley, who has someone become the arbiter of “moral turpitude” in South Carolina.
“When you look at any elected officials that believe they are above the law, there’s a problem,” Haley told reporters this week. “I think they should both resign. I think right now that our office is looking at options and continue to see where we go from here. This has been an issue that has been a problem in South Carolina for a long time. When you have elected officials that are actually getting arrested for that, that’s a real problem.”
We agree with everything Haley said … expect the “option” part.
Governors can remove local elected officials from office if they are indicted for a crime of moral turpitude – a vague, catch-all term that could conceivably be used to describe any offense.
Haley wants to apply this term to DUI – unilaterally claiming the authority to remove any elected official from office who is arrested on such a charge.
Do we support her on that count? No.
Haley’s proposal sounds harmless … helpful, even. And we have no doubt that the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) crowd will wildly embrace it. And certainly there are some DUI arrests – specifically those resulting in injury or death to innocent bystanders – which ought to give a governor grounds to remove the public official in question from office.
But given the inherently corrupt nature of Palmetto politics – and the near certainty that such a broad power would be abused by Haley or other governors – we cannot approve such a far-reaching measure.
Seriously: Imagine a small-town mayor who refuses to go along with the governor’s office on something. What’s to stop the S.C. Highway Patrol – which is under the governor’s authority – to arrest that official on suspicion of DUI whether it’s warranted or not?
God forbid the official had a glass of wine with dinner – or for that matter the three vodka tonics Haley used to enjoy each night she made the scene during her time as a member of the S.C. General Assembly.
We want Myers and Washington to resign, too. They’re scum. And we have no problem making an official’s indictment on a felony DUI charge a crime of moral turpitude – subject to removal from office at the governor’s discretion. But to extend such blanket authority to governors – the right to remove local elected officials on the mere basis of a DUI arrest – is dangerous.