- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Surfside Beach Rep. Nelson Hardwick has resigned following a complaint investigated by House Speaker Jay Lucas.

The speaker’s office confirmed Wednesday that Hardwick chose to resign after being presented Tuesday with the results of that investigation.

“As speaker, maintaining the integrity and public trust of this body is my highest priority. Any inappropriate activity related to the men, women and staff that serve in the House Chamber has been and will continue to be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously,” Lucas said.

His office declined to disclose the specific nature of the complaint, but documents are expected to be released Thursday.

The complaint was received a couple of weeks ago, according to Lucas’ office.

Hardwick did not immediately return phone messages Wednesday.

The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating a House member. Without naming the legislator, spokesman Thom Berry said Attorney General Alan Wilson asked SLED to conduct a preliminary investigation.

Wilson made the request after Lucas asked his office this week to review “matters concerning a member of the body,” said Wilson’s spokesman, Mark Powell, declining to say more.

Hardwick’s two-paragraph resignation letter said he was quitting, as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, because he wanted to focus on his health. The 63-year-old Republican was at the House on Tuesday.

“Serving in the South Carolina House has been one of the single greatest highlights of my life,” wrote the married father of three. “It has been an honor and privilege to represent the people of Horry County.”

First elected in 2004, Hardwick was chairman of House’s agriculture and natural resources committee for the previous two terms. He moved to the Ways and Means Committee after November’s election.

He has faced opposition only twice since 2004, defeating a Republican challenger both in the June 2010 and 2012 primaries.

A special election to fill his seat will be in September. Candidates can file between May 29 and June 8. A primary is set for July 28, according to the state Election Commission.

Hardwick is the third House member to resign in the last seven months.

Former GOP Rep. Kris Crawford of Florence resigned in mid-December, just one month after being re-elected to a fifth term, saying the commute to the state capital and his professional duties as an emergency room doctor were wearing him out.

Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell resigned in October - after representing Charleston for more than 20 years - as part of a plea deal to avoid jail time for misdemeanor campaign finance violations.

Former Democratic Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston resigned in May 2013, amid a Senate Ethics hearing on allegations he used campaign donations for personal expenses and misrepresented his spending. In that case, the committee then forwarded its documents to the attorney general’s office. Ford pleaded guilty in January to misconduct in office, forgery and two violations of state ethics law.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide