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TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-540, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO ETHICS COMMITTEE INVESTIGATIONS AND HEARINGS, SO AS TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT INVESTIGATIONS AND RECORDS RELATING TO A PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION ARE CONFIDENTIAL, TO ALLOW PUBLIC RELEASE OF INVESTIGATIONS AND RECORDS IF A RESPONDENT REQUESTS THEIR RELEASE OR THE COMMITTEE RENDERS A PUBLIC OPINION, AND TO CREATE A PENALTY FOR WILFUL RELEASE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION; TO AMEND SECTIONS 8-13-710 AND 8-13-1120, BOTH AS AMENDED, BOTH RELATING TO CONTENTS OF A STATEMENT OF ECONOMIC INTERESTS, SO AS TO REQUIRE DISCLOSURE OF ANYTHING OF VALUE WORTH A SPECIFIED AMOUNT GIVEN UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES; TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-1302, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO CAMPAIGN RECORDS, SO AS TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT A CANDIDATE DISCLOSE THE OCCUPATION OF A DONOR; TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-1320, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO CONTRIBUTIONS MADE AFTER A PRIMARY, SPECIAL, OR GENERAL ELECTION, SO AS TO ALLOW A DONOR TO DESIGNATE THAT A CONTRIBUTION APPLY TO THE NEXT ELECTION; AND TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-1510, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO PENALTIES, SO AS TO ALLOW THE APPROPRIATE SUPERVISORY AUTHORITY TO WAIVE THE CIVIL PENALTY IN ITS DISCRETION.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Section 8-13-540 of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 184 of 1993, is further amended to read:
"Section 8-13-540. Unless otherwise provided for by House or Senate rule, as appropriate, each ethics committee must conduct its investigation of a complaint filed pursuant to this chapter or Chapter 17 of Title 2 in accordance with this section.
(1) When a complaint is filed with or by the ethics committee, a copy must promptly be sent to the person alleged to have committed the violation. If the ethics committee determines the complaint does not allege facts sufficient to constitute a violation, the complaint must be dismissed and the complainant and respondent notified. If the ethics committee finds that the complaining party wilfully filed a groundless complaint, the finding must be reported to appropriate law enforcement authorities. The wilful filing of a groundless complaint is a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, a person must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than one year. In lieu of the criminal penalty provided by this subsection, a civil penalty of not more than one thousand dollars may be assessed against the complainant upon proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the filing of the complaint was wilful and without just cause or with malice. If the ethics committee determines the complaint alleges facts sufficient to constitute a violation, it shall promptly investigate the alleged violation and may compel by subpoena the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of pertinent books and papers.
If after such preliminary investigation, the ethics committee finds that probable cause exists to support an alleged violation, it shall, as appropriate:
(a) render an advisory opinion to the respondent and require the respondent's compliance within a reasonable time; or
(b) convene a formal hearing on the matter within thirty days of the respondent's failure to comply with the advisory opinion.
All ethics committee investigations and records relating to the preliminary investigation are confidential. No complaint shall be accepted which is filed later than four years after the alleged violation occurred.
(2) If a hearing is to be held, the respondent must be allowed to examine and make copies of all evidence in the ethics committee's possession relating to the charges. At the hearing the charged party must be afforded appropriate due process protections, including the right to be represented by counsel, the right to call and examine witnesses, the right to introduce exhibits, and the right to cross-examine opposing witnesses. All hearings must be conducted in executive session.
(3) After the hearing, the ethics committee shall determine its findings of fact. If the ethics committee, based on competent and substantial evidence, finds the respondent has violated this chapter or Chapter 17 of Title 2, it shall:
(a) administer a public or private reprimand;
(b) determine that a technical violation as provided for in Section 8-13-1170 has occurred;
(c) recommend expulsion of the member; and/or,
(d) in the case of an alleged criminal violation, refer the matter to the Attorney General for investigation. The ethics committee shall report its findings in writing to the Speaker of the House or President Pro Tempore of the Senate, as appropriate. The report must be accompanied by an order of punishment and supported and signed by a majority of the ethics committee members. If the ethics committee finds the respondent has not violated a code or statutory provision, it shall dismiss the charges.
(4) An individual has ten days from the date of the notification of the ethics committee's action to appeal the action to the full legislative body.
(5) No ethics committee member may participate in any matter in which he is involved.
(6) The ethics committee shall establish procedures which afford respondents appropriate due process protections, including the right to be represented by counsel, the right to call and examine witnesses, the right to introduce exhibits, and the right to cross-examine opposing witnesses.
(7)(a) All investigations, inquiries, records, proceedings, and accompanying documents related to a complaint are confidential unless the respondent requests, in writing, to waive confidentiality or the ethics committee renders a public opinion. A person connected with a complaint before the ethics committee shall not disclose the existence of the complaint and any related information and proceedings nor discuss any related testimony or evidence except to persons directly involved, and then only to the extent as necessary for the proper disposition of the matter.
(b) The wilful release of confidential information is a misdemeanor, and a person releasing such information, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than one year. The Attorney General, pursuant to a referral for investigation as provided in Section 8-13-540(3)(d) and upon a conviction, must enforce these penalties at the request of the ethics committee."
SECTION 2. Section 8-13-710(B) of the 1976 Code, as amended by Act 248 of 1991, is further amended to read:
"(B) A public official, public member, or public employee required to file a statement of economic interests under Section 8-13-1110 who receives, accepts, or takes, directly or indirectly, from a person, anything of value worth
twenty-five dollars or more in a day and anything of value worth two hundred dollars or more in the aggregate in a calendar year more than the dollar amount established in Section 2-17-90(B) must report on his statement of economic interests pursuant to Section 8-13-1120 the thing of value from:
(1) a person, if there is reason to believe the donor would not give the thing of value but for the public official's public member's, or public employee's office or position;
(2) a person, or from an officer or director of a person, if the public official, public member, or public employee has reason to believe the person:
(a) has or is seeking to obtain contractual or other business or financial relationships with the public official's, public member's, or public employee's governmental entity;
(b) conducts operations or activities which are regulated by the public official's, public member's, or public employee's governmental entity."
SECTION 3. Section 8-13-1120(A)(9) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(9) the source and a brief description of any gifts, including transportation, lodging, food,
or entertainment, or anything of value worth more than the dollar amount established in Section 2-17-90(B) received during the preceding calendar year from:
(a) a person, if there is reason to believe the donor would not give the gift, gratuity, or favor but for the official's or employee's office or position; or
(b) a person, or from an officer or director of a person, if the public official or public employee has reason to believe the person:
(i) has or is seeking to obtain contractual or other business or financial relationship with the official's or employee's agency; or
(ii) conducts operations or activities which are regulated by the official's or employee's agency
if the value of the gift is twenty-five dollars or more in a day or if the value totals, in the aggregate, two hundred dollars or more in a calendar year."
SECTION 4. Section 8-13-1302(A)(4)-(6) of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 76 of 2003, is further amended to read:
"(4) the name and address of each person to whom an expenditure is made including the date, amount, purpose, and beneficiary of the expenditure; and
(5) all receipted bills, canceled checks, or other proof of payment for each expenditure
(6) the occupation of each person making a contribution."
SECTION 5. Section 8-13-1320(2) of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 248 of 1991, is further amended to read:
"(2) A contribution made on or before the end of the quarter immediately following a general election or special election is attributed to the general election or special election, respectively, unless the donor designates in writing that his contribution be attributed to the next election."
SECTION 6. Section 8-13-1510 of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 76 of 2003, is further amended to read:
"Section 8-13-1510. (A) Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter, a person required to file a report or statement under this chapter who files a late statement or report or fails to file a required statement or report must be assessed a civil penalty as follows:
(1) a fine of one hundred dollars if the statement or report is not filed within five days after the established deadline provided by law in this chapter; or
(2) after notice has been given by certified or registered mail that a required statement or report has not been filed, a fine of ten dollars per day for the first ten days after notice has been given, and one hundred dollars for each additional calendar day in which the required statement is not filed.
(B) The appropriate supervisory authority may waive the civil penalty provided in this section if, in its discretion, the circumstances warrant a waiver."
SECTION 7. If any section, subsection, paragraph, subparagraph, sentence, clause, phrase, or word of this act is for any reason held to be unconstitutional or invalid, such holding shall not affect the constitutionality or validity of the remaining portions of this act, the General Assembly hereby declaring that it would have passed this act, and each and every section, subsection, paragraph, subparagraph, sentence, clause, phrase, and word thereof, irrespective of the fact that any one or more other sections, subsections, paragraphs, subparagraphs, sentences, clauses, phrases, or words hereof may be declared to be unconstitutional, invalid, or otherwise ineffective.
SECTION 8. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
This web page was last updated on Monday, June 22, 2009 at 2:36 P.M.