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      Ethics panel says Mayor Steve Benjamin properly reported trip

      Mayor Steve Benjamin

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- An ethics panel says state laws did not require Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin to have disclosed an all-expenses paid trip from a Florida developer.

      The commission made the decision at a hearing Wednesday.

      The trip happened in 2010 as Benjamin traveled to a meeting on a developer's private jet. Details of the trip were made public during the recent federal corruption trial of former South Carolina State University board chairman Jonathan Pinson.

      Pinson is Benjamin's former business partner and is awaiting sentencing on 29 charges including racketeering. Benjamin was mentioned at trial but has not been charged.

      Benjamin has been criticized for not reporting the trip as a gift. He has said he regretted the trip but that it was personal and didn't need to be reported to ethics officials.

      "I regret being present for certain aspects of the previously referenced trip. I should have used better judgement. However to be clear, I did not at any time engage in any illegal activity while in Orlando," said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

      ??The South Carolina Ethics Commission??s unanimous decision has concluded what I have always maintained: that I complied with the law. I respect their decision and the rule of law.?? Read the statement released by Mayor Benjamin. ??At the end of the day I??m proud of the fact that when faced with wild speculation and innuendo we stood up for the facts and, when it was over, the truth won out.

      ??I am deeply humbled and grateful by the support I??ve received from my family, friends and the people of Columbia as we continue to move forward in serving them and making our city the very best it can be.??