State Investigation Of Former South Carolina Transportation Official Urged

Out of the frying pan, into the fire?

A day after he was sentenced in federal court to eighteen months probation and a month-and-a-half under house arrest, former South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) commissioner John Hardee – the son-in-law of powerful state senator Hugh Leatherman – has found himself out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Potentially, anyway …

Hardee could soon become the focus of a state investigation into some of the bribery allegations that ultimately led to his guilty plea at the federal level on an unrelated charge.

That is the gist of a letter sent this week from the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson to Mark Keel, chief of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

“Now that the federal case against former SCDOT commissioner John Hardee has been resolved, it is … appropriate that an agent or agents be assigned to conclude the preliminary inquiry so that this office can review the allegations for any possible state violations,” the letter from chief deputy attorney general Jeffrey Young noted. “Accordingly, we are requesting assignment of an agent to contact this office and continue this preliminary inquiry.”

Take a look …

(Via: S.C. Attorney General’s Office)

“We have received a request,” SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson told us, referring to the letter. “The request is under review.”

Hardee pleaded guilty in federal court back in January to obstructing justice in connection with a federal investigation. He was staring down twenty years in a federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 in connection with that charge.

Instead, he got no jail time and a fine of only $1,000.

Hardee’s case sparked considerable interest last month when it was revealed he had taken bribes during his tenure as commissioner – but wouldn’t be facing criminal charges related to those bribes because prosecutors couldn’t prove he improperly influenced government contracts after receiving them.

So … were they even bribes, then?

Hardee, 72, spent two terms on this hugely influential panel – first from 1998 to 2007 and then again from 2014 to 2018. During that time, he was dogged by nepotism allegations as well as criticism that his company received preferential treatment on state contracts.

According to our sources, Wilson has met with federal prosecutors about the Hardee case, although his office declined to comment on the matter beyond the statements that were included in Young’s letter to Keel.

Our view? We think Hardee got off easy at the federal level …

We will have to wait and see whether this state inquiry offers a chance for some enhanced accountability.

Bigger picture? SCDOT’s corruption, incompetence, inefficiency and poor prioritization continue to cost Palmetto State taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars.

Whatever happens to him, that has to change …


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