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Bill Number: 954 Ratification Number: 430 Act Number 374 Introducing Body: Senate Subject: Relating to duties of the State Ethics Commission
(A374, R430, S954)
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-120, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO DUTIES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION SO AS TO REQUIRE THE COMMISSION TO GIVE A RESPONDENT NOT LESS THAN THIRTY DAYS NOTICE OF A FORMAL HEARING AFTER A FINDING OF PROBABLE CAUSE OF FAILURE OF RESPONDENT TO COMPLY WITH AN ADVISORY OPINION IN ORDER TO BRING SUCH NOTICE IN CONFORMANCE WITH THE NOTICE REQUIREMENT OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT; PERMIT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO SEEK INJUNCTIVE RELIEF FOR AN ALLEGED CRIMINAL VIOLATION AND TO MAKE CERTAIN ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE COMMISSION ON COMPLAINTS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD; TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-460, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO CERTAIN ACTIONS REQUIRED OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS OR EMPLOYEES WHEN THEIR DECISION WOULD AFFECT THEIR FINANCIAL INTEREST, SO AS TO REQUIRE SUCH EMPLOYEE TO FILE A WRITTEN STATEMENT WITH HIS SUPERIOR AND IF HE HAS NO SUPERIOR TO TAKE SUCH ACTION AS PRESCRIBED BY THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION AND TO PRESCRIBE THE ACTION TO BE TAKEN BY A PUBLIC OFFICIAL WHO IS A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING BODY OF A STATE AGENCY OR COMMISSION OR OF ANY COUNTY, MUNICIPALITY OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION; AND TO AMEND SECTION 8-13-810, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO PERSONS REQUIRED TO FILE A STATEMENT OF ECONOMIC INTEREST BEFORE TAKING OATH OF OFFICE OR COMMENCING EMPLOYMENT SO AS TO DELETE THE TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLAR REPORTING THRESHOLD AND TO REQUIRE CERTAIN EMPLOYEES AND OFFICIALS TO FILE SUCH STATEMENT.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
Complaints to be filed with commission
Section 1. Item (1) of subsection (f) of Section 8-13-120 of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Section 4 of Act 150 of 1977, is amended to read:
"(1) When a complaint is filed with the commission, a copy shall promptly be sent to the person alleged to have committed the violation. If the commission determines the complaint does not allege facts sufficient to constitute a violation, the complaint shall be dismissed and the complainant and respondent notified. If the commission determines the complaint does allege facts sufficient to constitute a violation, it shall promptly investigate the alleged violation utilizing the resources of such other state agencies as may be requested. If, after such preliminary investigation, the commission 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 therewith within a reasonable time, or (b) convene a formal hearing on the matter, after notice of not less than thirty days after making such determination of probable cause or after notice of not less than thirty days of the respondent's failure to comply with the advisory, whichever comes later. All commission investigations and records relating to the preliminary investigation shall be confidential."
Hearing before the Commission
Section 2. Item (2) of subsection (f) of Section 8-13-120 of
the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(2) If a hearing is to be held, the respondent shall be allowed to examine and make copies of all evidence in the commission's possession relating to the charges. At the hearing the charged party shall be afforded appropriate due process protection consistent with state administrative procedures, 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 shall be conducted in executive session. Upon completion of its investigation and any hearing thereon, the commission shall, where appropriate, recommend disciplinary or administrative action or in the case of an alleged criminal violation refer the matter to the Attorney General for appropriate action. The Attorney General may seek injunctive relief or may take other appropriate action as necessary. In the case of a public employee, the commission shall file a report to the administrative department executive responsible for the activities of such employee. If the complaint is filed against an administrative department executive, the commission shall refer the case to the Governor. All actions taken by the commission on complaints, except on alleged violations which are found to be groundless by the commission, are a matter of public record."
Requirements of public employees
Section 3. Item (c) of Section 8-13-460 of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Section 5 of Act 150 of 1977, is amended to read:
"(c) If he is a public employee, he shall furnish a copy to his superior, if any, who shall assign the matter to another employee who does not have a potential conflict of interest. If he has no immediate superior, he shall take such action as prescribed by the State Ethics Commission. If the public official is a member of the governing body of any agency, commission, board, or of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision, he shall furnish a copy to the presiding officer and to the members of that governing body, who shall cause such statement to be printed in the minutes and shall require that the member be excused from any votes, deliberations, and other actions on the matter on which the potential conflict of interest exists, and shall cause such disqualification and the reasons therefor to be noted in the minutes."
Statement of economic interest to be filed
Section 4. Section 8-13-810 of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Section 7 of Act 150 of 1977, is amended to read:
"Section 8-13-810. No member of the General Assembly, or elected public official, regardless of compensation, and no public employee or appointed official as designated below, regardless of compensation, shall be allowed to take the oath of office or enter upon his duties of employment unless he has filed a statement of economic interests in accordance with the provisions of this chapter at the office of the State Ethics Commission, the Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee or the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ethics Committee as may be appropriate. The State Ethics Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee and House of Representatives Ethics Committee shall forward a copy of each statement filed with it to the clerk of court in the county of residence of the member, official or employee. If members of the General Assembly or public officials and employees referred to in this section have no economic interests as defined in item (g) of Section 8-13-20, they shall nevertheless file a negative report to that effect with the entity with which reports are to be filed. All disclosure statements shall be matters of public record open to inspection upon request.
The following public employees or appointed officials shall file a statement of economic interest regardless of compensation:
(a) Any person appointed to fill the unexpired term of any elective office;
(b) Salaried members of State boards, commissions or agencies;
(c) The chief administrative official or employee and the deputy or assistant administrative official or employee or director of a division, institution or facility of any agency or department of state government;
(d) The city administrator, city manager or chief municipal administrative official or employee, by whatever title;
(e) The county manager, county administrator, county supervisor, or chief county administrative official or employee, by whatever title;
(f) The chief administrative official or employee of each political subdivision including, but not limited to, school districts, libraries regional planning councils, airport commissions, hospitals, community action agencies, water and sewer districts and development commissions;
(g) All school district and county superintendents of education;
(h) All school district board members and county board of education members;
(i) The chief finance official or employee and the chief purchasing official or employee of each agency, institution, or facility of state government, and of each county, municipality, or other political subdivision, including but not limited to those named in item (f)."
Section 5. This act shall take effect upon approval by the Governor except that Section 4 of this act shall take effect January 1, 1981.