SCPC Statement on Speaker Harrell

Originally released to media on Thursday, March 13, 2014.

A report by The State that Speaker Harrell’s attorneys are trying to get the Attorney General thrown off of Harrell’s case is alarming, and to make matters worse he wants the hearing to be held in private.

Neither scenario should be allowed. Public trust is finally on the rise, largely because the Attorney General agreed to take our complaint into Speaker Harrell’s alleged ethics violations after we raised inherent due process problems that would inevitably arise if we were forced to file it with House Ethics Committee.

It’s worth noting that Harrell raised no concerns about the inherent conflicts in that process, including that he himself controls the staff that would have been tasked with investigating the complaint.

Speaker Harrell has taken every opportunity to exert his extraordinary power to receive special treatment. He even used his power to push a secret bill through full committee that would have literally decriminalized all the ethics violations of which he is accused. He also demanded that the AG release the SLED report after it had been turned over to the Grand Jury and thus became part of the secret process under which the Grand Jury operates. The Speaker knows very well that secrecy exists for a reason – the state Grand Jury handles cases involving children and gang-related crimes. Yet the Speaker fully expected that the secrecy that protects those victims and witnesses be waived for his convenience. But now, the Speaker wants the hearing about the AG’s purported “conflict” to be held in private. That hearing would be a procedural one, and not part of the Grand Jury proceedings – it makes no sense that the hearing would be held in private.

It is the role of the Attorney General to handle Grand Jury cases, and there appears to be no instance in which an Attorney General has been removed from a state Grand Jury case. It is difficult to conceive what the alleged conflict might be, especially since there has been no hint of one so far.

The Speaker certainly deserves the chance to make his case, however weak it may be, but he doesn’t deserve a private hearing. The Attorney General is the public’s advocate, and there are two sides to this matter. Public trust in our state’s judicial system is at its lowest when the doors close to protect powerful politicians.

Citizens have no choice now but to trust those in charge of this process. So far, we’ve been pleasantly surprised that those in charge of this investigation have acted in the public interest. We hope that continues to be the case. The Speaker should receive no special treatment.

This statement was released in response to The State‘s story revealing Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell’s attempts to have Attorney General Alan Wilson ejected from the grand jury investigation into Harrell’s alleged misconduct. Following the release of SCPC’s statement, The Nerve continued the investigation with it’s exclusive story here

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