Haley staffers will testify before Senate panel

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- South Carolina senators are subpoenaing four members of Gov. Nikki Haley's staff to answer questions about a water quality permit to dredge the Savannah River.

A Senate committee voted 9-3 Friday to subpoena Haley's chief of staff, her attorney and two legislative liaisons. Five members of the committee were not present.

According to a Haley spokesman, the four staffers will testify at the next hearing scheduled for December 8.

"Yes, our staffers will testify," said a statement posted to Haley's Facebook page. "And these Senators will confirm, again, what we already know to be true: No one in the governor's office had anything to do with the DHEC decision."

Haley and her staff have previously refused to appear before the senators, saying it was unnecessary and could set a bad precedent.

"This is a governor and an administration that talks about transparency, but, seems to misunderstand the true definition," said Democratic Sen. Joel Lourie of Richland County.

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Last month, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reached an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers and Georgia minutes before the board appointed by Haley was to hear an appeal on the Savannah dredging issue. Weeks earlier, board members had expressed environmental concerns about the project.

At Friday's hearing, several state lawmakers suggested overturning the controversial decision through legislation rather than subpoenaing Haley's staffers. Critics of DHEC's decision say the water permit clearing the way for a Savannah port expansion will have a severe economic impact on South Carolina by giving Georgia a competitive edge over the Port of Charleston.

Haley detractors blasted the decision saying the governor influenced the board's decision in return for political favors. Haley attended a high-dollar fundraiser in Georgia prior to the DHEC board's decision.

Its chairman told senators on Tuesday that Haley asked that the board hear Georgia out, but, all six members testified Haley did not pressure them to approve the permit allowing the expansion of Savannah's port.

Haley has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying she and her staff had nothing to do with the board's decision.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)