S.C. senator quits amid ethics inquiry

Ethics case is advanced by Senate panel

AP
State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, is sworn in at a hearing on ethics charges against him on Thursday, May 30, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. Ford is accused of using campaign money for personal use. His lawyer blames sloppy bookkeeping and said Ford didn't intend to break ethics laws.
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COLUMBIA — State Sen. Robert Ford resigned Fri­day amid allegations that included spending campaign money at adult stores, and the Senate Ethics Committee referred his case to the state attorney general’s office for review based on “multiple violations” of South Carolina’s ethics law.

Senate President Pro Tem John Courson, R-Columbia, announced Ford’s resignation, effective immediately, just as the committee hearing’s second day began.

In its final order, the committee determined there was overwhelming evidence to support allegations that the Charleston Democrat violated eight sections of South Carolina’s ethics law.

Ford is accused of using campaign donations for personal expenses; misrepresenting his spending; failing to report numerous expenses, donations and personal loans; and then trying to cover it up. There are specific charges over four years within each broad allegation. Senators specified that one contained 357 examples.

Ford, a senator for 20 years, decided to resign to “lessen the pressure personally and psychologically,” particularly in light of his high blood pressure and
cardiovascular issues, said his attorney, William Runyon.

Ford did not attend Friday’s hearing. The 64-year-old experienced chest pains after Thursday’s proceedings and spent the night in a Columbia hospital. He went to Charleston on Friday for further tests, Runyon said.

Before Ford’s colleagues went into executive session, Runyon asked them to forward the case to Attorney General Alan Wilson for further investigation without issuing fines or making specific findings. Runyon noted Ford could face fines later.

“We’re looking for as much mercy as we can get,” he told the 10 senators. “There’s no question we have terrible accounting problems.”

Runyon seemed pleased after the order was posted online.

“I guess we got what we wanted,” he said.

Committee Chairman Luke Rankin commended Ford for stepping down.

“His move today has certainly lifted a heavy burden off of me individually. The decision to expel would not be lightly taken by anybody,” said Rankin, R-Conway.

On Thursday, the committee heard the charges against Ford included allegations that he used campaign money for adult-store purchases and male enhancement pills.

After that hearing, Ford said the adult-store purchases were gag gifts for people who helped with his community work but refused pay. Small gifts for campaign staffers are allowed under ethics laws.

Ford said somebody fraudulently used his debit card to buy Cyvita, pills used for male enhancement that haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The committee’s attorney, Lyn Odom, said he found nearly $20,000 that should have gone into Ford’s campaign accounts but was diverted to his personal accounts. He said he found nearly $48,000 in unreported contributions after comparing Ford’s campaign filings with his bank records.

Giving examples of altered documents, Odom said Ford turned in checks that explained payments as covering campaign or charity expenses when subpoenaed documents showed they paid his auto and renter’s insurance bills. On other copies of checks, the name of the recipient had been changed, Odom said.

Runyon blamed the problems on bad bookkeeping by a lawmaker who tried to handle all of his accounting and campaign filing without a staff.

“Sen. Ford’s done a lot of good. Bookkeeping isn’t one of them,” he said. “You can get behind the eight-ball real fast. If you try to play catch-up too fast, you make mistakes.”

The public hearing against Ford was a first for the Senate Ethics Committee, which also ordered the online posting of documents supporting the case after they’re redacted of personal information, such as bank account numbers.

Two other senators have been penalized for non-technical ethics violations since 2010. Former Sen. Jake Knotts was publicly reprimanded. And Sen. Kent Williams paid a $5,390 penalty last fall for accepting 15 larger-than-allowed campaign donations. But those cases did not reach the hearing process.

Ford, who served on Charleston City Council from 1974 until his election to Senate, easily won his sixth term last November.

A special election to fill his seat in the majority-black Charleston district will be Oct. 1, following Aug. 13 primaries, according to the state Election Commission.

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itsanotherday1
40016
Points
itsanotherday1 05/31/13 - 01:24 pm
5
2
Squirming like a worm in hot

Squirming like a worm in hot ashes he is!

GiantsAllDay
9039
Points
GiantsAllDay 05/31/13 - 02:55 pm
5
3
Throw a citizen bookkeeper

Throw a citizen bookkeeper under the bus. Stay classy, buddy!

Sweet son
9649
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Sweet son 05/31/13 - 04:49 pm
8
0
Amazing how the prospect of going to jail

will make you have chest pains! He and Tyronne Brooks from GA should get together to see who can come up with the lamest excuse for theft of campaign funds. Tyronne has already deferred blame to supposed lynchings that occurred a long time ago. Guess his Viagra was not working so he bought the Cyvita. Don't get me wrong as it looks like I'm going after the black legislators. Not so, if the whites are doing the same thing then get them too!!!!!

rmwhitley
5526
Points
rmwhitley 05/31/13 - 05:31 pm
0
0
The naacp
Unpublished

won't allow a "brother" to be charged, much less indicted, for being a common garden variety thief. Look at charlie' the weasel" rangel.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 05/31/13 - 07:09 pm
7
0
Dang, I never got sex toys
Unpublished

Dang, I never got sex toys for the community work I've done. Must be doing it for the wrong organizations.

paladin5
282
Points
paladin5 05/31/13 - 08:05 pm
4
0
Wow...What kind of staffers....

Interesting to speculate about the type of staffers who worked for the campaign that would like to receive gifts from sex shops....There is a pattern here.....sex shops and enhancement pills.

paladin5
282
Points
paladin5 05/31/13 - 08:05 pm
4
0
Wow...What kind of staffers....

Interesting to speculate about the type of staffers who worked for the campaign that would like to receive gifts from sex shops....There is a pattern here.....sex shops and enhancement pills.

Dixieman
12756
Points
Dixieman 06/01/13 - 01:53 am
4
0
Dixieman won't accept any points from him or his campaign

"Ford turned in checks that explained payments as covering campaign or charity expenses when subpoenaed documents showed they paid his auto and renter’s insurance bills. On other copies of checks, the name of the recipient had been changed..."
Uh-huh.
Probably the only reason he didn't claim racism is this DOCUMENTARY evidence!

Young Fred
15723
Points
Young Fred 06/01/13 - 03:04 am
6
3
I'm getting real tired...

...of government officials spitting on public trust. I've noticed a substantial change in the attitudes of buearcrats and officials since 2008.

It's almost like since they got one of their own elected as president, they(mistakenly) believe they can do any dang thing they please.

This ain't New York or Oregon! We don't play that game (crap)!

Bodhisattva
5553
Points
Bodhisattva 06/01/13 - 05:01 am
6
5
Get together with Nathan,

Get together with Nathan, Newt, Schrenko, Scott, Williams, and Tyrone next door, Ard, and Sanford from SC and add Michele Bachmann from Minnesota and they can form a club.

seenitB4
80903
Points
seenitB4 06/01/13 - 07:56 am
3
0
Alrighty now...

allegations that he used campaign money for adult-store purchases and male enhancement pills.

Too dang nosey is what I say...haha...those staffers want the toys & enhancements ...well let them have a gift or two.....gotta keep the staff happy. :)

seenitB4
80903
Points
seenitB4 06/01/13 - 07:58 am
2
0
Cash

There are some things in life ya just gotta pay with cash!

itsanotherday1
40016
Points
itsanotherday1 06/01/13 - 08:45 am
4
3
"Get together with Nathan,

"Get together with Nathan, Newt, Schrenko, Scott, Williams, and Tyrone next door, Ard, and Sanford from SC and add Michele Bachmann from Minnesota and they can form a club."

And don't leave out Pelosi (not caught yet), Jefferson, Rangel, J.Jackson Jr., Rostenkowski; plus many other Dems and Pubs.

CobaltGeorge
149613
Points
CobaltGeorge 06/01/13 - 09:03 am
4
3
Young Fred

You have hit the Bull's Eye pretty close with that one!

Young Fred
15723
Points
Young Fred 06/01/13 - 10:11 am
4
2
Bod -

Remind me, did Newt or Sanford steal?

CobaltGeorge
149613
Points
CobaltGeorge 06/01/13 - 12:07 pm
0
2
Side Profile

looks a little like OJ Simpson, don't you think?

dwb619
86167
Points
dwb619 06/01/13 - 06:02 pm
1
1
Sanford

I believe Sanford was forced to repay the state approximately $70k after an ethics investigation,for expenses incurred visiting his present "soul mate'. His words, not mine.

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