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      State leaders pushing ethics reform forward in SC

      Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday the Public Integrity Unit in his office would be key in fighting ethics violations.

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - Ethics reform has been a major issue in South Carolina government for years, but state leaders are hoping to make major changes.

      The newly formed South Carolina Commission on Ethics Reform held a meeting Tuesday hearing testimony from the state's chief executive.

      Gov. Nikki Haley testified on strengthening ethics laws in South Carolina.

      "You can't put a price on trust. I think we need to do it efficiently. I think we need to do it effectively," said Haley.

      The governor was the subject of an ethics probe earlier this year. A panel of lawmakers conducting the review after a Republican activist accused Haley of illegal lobbying while she was a state representative. It was the first time such an investigation was made public. Haley was eventually cleared.

      There were some who were critical of the process. The current structure has lawmakers policed by the House and Senate ethics committees, while executive branch officials are overseen by the South Carolina Ethics Commission. Critics say that is a case of the fox guarding the hen house.

      "The recipe for corruption is concentration of power and secrecy; that's true always," said Ashley Landis, SC Policy Council.

      Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday the Public Integrity Unit in his office would be key in fighting ethics violations.

      According to Wilson, the unit would be able to investigate and prosecute criminal acts that violate the publics trust. The new unit is a partnership between multiple state agencies to supervise public officials.

      "I believe the Public Integrity Unit is more efficient and I think it would bring a level of transparency to the system that we lack right now," said Wilson.

      The commission will make recommendations to state lawmakers by January 28.

      Haley says this will, "justify to the public that this is not picking on any one group or individual. This is saying we're going to make a consistent, fair, strong ethics piece of legislation."

      The Legislature will have to decide to take action on the recommendations, however, the House and Senate committees are developing.