COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) - A House Ethics Committee member says she will propose sending an ethics complaint against Gov. Nikki Haley to the attorney general.
Republican Rep. Joan Brady of Columbia wrote in a letter to the committee's chairman Roland Smith, an Aiken County Republican, that public attention and perception that the case has become political could affect the panel's ability to provide an unbiased review and judgment.
"We need to put it in a venue that has access to criminal investigators and criminal attorneys," said Brady. "The perception of the public is why is the legislative branch investigating the executive branch? That's why we have the judicial branch."
The ethics complaint against Haley started as a lawsuit filed by Republican activist John Rainey. It was ultimately dismissed by the courts, and landed with the House Ethics Committee.
In early May, the committee found there was probable cause to look into Governor Haley's employment as a state lawmaker and whether she worked as a lobbyist while serving in the House.
That vote opened the case to the public. Minutes later. the panel voted to dismiss all charges against her regarding her work as a consultant for engineering firm Wilbur Smith, and fundraising work for Lexington Medical Center.
Two weeks later, the panel of lawmakers requested more employment documents.
Last Thursday, Haley's legal team turned over a packet of information tied to that request, including sworn affidavits from former employers.
Ethics watchdogs still aren't satisfied.
"It's long past the time when this matter should be brought to a determination as to whether she was a lobbyist or whether she was not," said John Crangle of South Carolina Common Cause.
The tone of the ethics probe has become increasingly more politicized in the past few weeks. In mid-May, Democratic lawmaker Rep. James Smith pushed a resolution that ultimately prompted the ethics panel to request more information from Haley.
Late last week, Gov. Haley accused House Speaker Bobby Harrell of meddling in the case, and directing ethics committee members how to handle the investigation. Harrell, a Lowcountry Republican, has strongly denied those claims.
On Friday, when Haley was asked about the possibility of the ethics case being haned to the attorney general to eliminate political influence, she shot down the notion.
"Stick with the legal side of it. The right side is the legal side which said they dismissed it," said Haley. "They were comfortable with dismissing it, they saw no information. If it goes to the A.G. then it totally shows it was political all along."
On Tuesday, a Haley spokesman responded to Rep. Brady's desire to push for the attorney general to take on the case.
"Through all these silly political machinations in this process, there has been one - and only one - constant: there has been absolutely zero merit to any of the claims against the governor. She always followed the law. Period," said spokesman Rob Godfrey. "That will be as true tomorrow as it was last December when John Rainey and Dick Harpootlian began this vindictive, but meritless, political goose chase."
Brady says she intends to propose forwarding the ethics complaint to attorney General Alan Wilson when the House Ethics Committee meets on Wednesday.
"We need to be sure that the perception from the public is that this is being handled completely, it's being handled thoroughly," said Brady.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)