Bond set for South Carolina House speaker in official misconduct case

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 29, 2014 5:15 PM

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON S.C. (Reuters) - Bond was set on Monday for suspended South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell at his first court appearance since being indicted on nine misdemeanor charges of misusing campaign money and official misconduct, his attorney said.

The $18,000 bond for Harrell, a Republican, does not require him to put up any money unless he fails to appear for a future court proceeding in Columbia, South Carolina, said his attorney, Bart Daniel.

Harrell, who has said he never knowingly violated the law, suspended himself from office a day after being indicted this month on charges he used campaign funds for personal expenses and falsified his private plane's logbook to seek payment for non-existent travel.

He has called the indictment a "political vendetta" carried out by the state's Republican attorney general, Alan Wilson, who ordered the investigation into Harrell's practices last year and convened a grand jury.

The state Supreme Court ruled in June that Wilson had the authority to investigate a citizen's ethics complaint.

Daniel said on Monday that Harrell had cooperated with investigators over the past year.

Harrell has served as speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives since 2005.

According to the indictment, he wrongly paid himself $294,000 in untaxed income and paid $70,000 to an administrative assistant at his insurance firm while filing disclosure forms saying the money was being spent on campaign or legislative efforts.

He also used campaign money to pay off credit card debt and for home-related expenses, the indictment said.

Harrell created flights in his plane's logbook that did not take place in order to get travel reimbursement and accepted about $96,000 in payments for legislative travel even though some of the trips were personal, according to the indictment.

Harrell has said he actually saved taxpayers money by often using his private plane or paying for flights with private funds while traveling on official business.

(Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Peter Cooney)