South Carolina graded "F" for ethics laws as debate rages on - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

South Carolina graded "F" for ethics laws as debate rages on

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The debate over reforming South Carolina's ethics laws has been a hot button issue with politicians for the last few years.

This week, lawmakers stopped discussions on a bill that would allow them to decide whether Attorney General Alan Wilson or a special prosecutor should lead investigations over the ethics violations cases.  Some said that gave politicians too much power.

A State Integrity Investigation said the Palmetto state ranks 45th in the nation when it comes to open and transparent politics.  That same study said the state's ethics commission deserved the letter grade of, "F," because the commission is, "toothless."

Dr. Gibbs Knotts with the College of Charleston said that commission has been rendered ineffective due to lack of funding.

"It's out of step with the majority of states out there," Knotts said. "About 30 to 35 states have commissions during their ethics reform [cases]."

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is currently undergoing an investigation into charges that he violated part of South Carolina's ethics laws.  Harrell is currently attempting to have Wilson removed from the case because, according to Harrell, Wilson is after him for political gain.

Knotts said that is an example of the current problem with the state's ethics system.

"When something like this happens, I think the public feels better if you take the politics out of it," Knotts said. "You don't have a Republican investigating a Republican or a Democrat investigating a Republican."

State lawmakers have said they wanted to have some sort of an ethics reform bill ready to be signed by Governor Nikki Haley by the end of this legislative session.  The last day for the General Assembly is June 5.
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