Gov. Haley Omits Spouse’s Pay in Ethics Disclosure Reports

April 13, 2015

Investigative Reports

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Nikki HaleyIn her 2014 state-of-the-state speech, Gov. Nikki Haley was clear about requiring politicians to reveal their sources of private income in their annual income-disclosure reports.

“We know that we are one of just four states that don’t require income disclosures, and we know we can’t wait until we are the very last to fix the problem,” she said.

But since becoming governor in 2011, Haley, a Republican, hasn’t listed the public salary of her husband, Michael Haley, who works for the S.C. National Guard, in her annual income-disclosure reports filed with the State Ethics Commission, including her latest report filed on March 30, a review by The Nerve found.

Nor is she required to do so, under a loophole in the state ethics law.

And yet Haley, as required by state law, reported her 2014 income as governor – $106,078 – as well as 356 gifts given to her last year totaling nearly $45,000, and 34 separate travel reimbursements from private sources totaling about $38,000, her latest income-disclosure report shows.

Haley in 2013 was fined $3,500 and received a “public warning” from the State Ethics Commission related to a reduced list of campaign-reporting violations after more than a year of secret dealings between her staff and the commission, as The Nerve reported then.

Neither the governor nor her husband responded to direct phone messages last week from The Nerveseeking comment on why his public income isn’t included in her income-disclosure reports. Chaney Adams, Gov. Haley’s spokeswoman, didn’t respond to written questions from The Nerve.

State ethics law (Section 8-13-1120 (A) (2) of the S.C. Code of Laws) requires elected officials and certain other public officials and government workers to list in their annual income-disclosure reports – called “statements of economic interests” – the “source, type, and amount or value of income, not to include tax refunds, of substantial monetary value received from a governmental entity by the filer or a member of the filer’s immediate family during the reporting period.”

Reporting the sources of income allows the public to monitor whether officials are engaging in potential conflicts of interest.

But under the state Ethics Act, “governmental entity” doesn’t include federal agencies, Herb Hayden, the Ethics Commission’s executive director, told The Nerve in a written response last week.

A spokeswoman with the S.C. National Guard told The Nerve last year that federal tax dollars covered Michael Haley’s job as a military technical with the Guard, though she said then she couldn’t immediately provide the amount of his salary. The governor’s husband served most of 2013 in Afghanistan as part of a Guard training group that worked with Afghan farmers.

The Nerve last week left two phone messages with Guard spokesman Capt. Brian Hare seeking comment on Michael Haley’s position and pay, but did not receive a response. The agency’s chief spokesperson, Lt. Col. Cindi King, who said in an email response she was out of the office last week, contacted The Nerve Sunday but  couldn’t provide a specific salary figure by publication of this story.

In her written response, King identified Haley as a “dual status federal military technician” with the rank of captain at an “O3 pay rate.” A dual-status federal technician is a “‘federal employee who also serves in the National Guard due to the nature of his/her duties,” she said, noting that besides dual-status technicians, the Guard includes active Guard reserve members and traditional Guard members who work full-time outside the Guard and who “drill once a month and for annual training.”

Michael Haley joined the Guard in 2006 while his wife was a House member, according to a story in The State newspaper. She didn’t report his Guard pay on her statements of economic interest during her tenure in the House, The Nerve’s review found.

Michael Haley is not listed in the state employee salary database maintained by the S.C. Budget and Control Board. The database lists 34 employees in the Adjutant General’s Office earning at least $50,000 annually, including Adjutant General Bob Livingston, whose current salary is $92,007. The database shows only salaries paid with state funds.

Gov. Haley could continue omitting her husband’s federal income in her annual income-disclosure reports under a House-passed omnibus ethics bill (H. 3722) that was amended last month by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would require, as Gov. Haley has publicly advocated, that public officials reveal private-income sources, though as the South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization –pointed out last week, there are a number of loopholes in the legislation.

The Policy Council in 2012 recommended private-income disclosure as part of its eight-point reform agenda. In 2013, the Policy Council launched “Project Conflict Watch,” an effort to encourage state lawmakers and other public officials to voluntarily report their private-income sources, though not amounts of private income.

Current state ethics law generally doesn’t require the reporting of private-income sources. And the law has other reporting loopholes for public-income sources.

In October, for example, House Ethics Committee Chairman Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, told The Nerve he didn’t have to report a total of more than $62,000 in state contracts with an engineering firm he co-owns – including a collective $43,550 paid by the Adjutant General’s Office to the firm – contending that state law didn’t require it because he isn’t an employee of those state agencies.

As for Gov. Haley’s most-recent statement of economic interests, in addition to her $106,078 salary as governor, she classified the use of a state residence, state car and state plane – each of which she listed at a value of $1 – as “personal income.”

Haley also listed 356 private gifts she received in 2014, ranging from a $1 portrait of her to 10 donations for the use of a Clemson University football suite, each valued at $2,894 and which collectively represented 64 percent of the $44,939 total value of the gifts, The Nerve’s review found.

David Wilkins, chairman of Clemson’s Board of Trustees and former S.C. House speaker and U.S. ambassador to Canada, provided one of the suite donations, records show. The Nerve last year reported that Haley, a Clemson graduate, received similar gifts in 2013.

Haley’s most-recent disclosure report also shows she received 34 travel reimbursements last year from private companies, organizations or individuals, ranging from several $15 meals in Canada to a $5,170 flight from Dallas to West Palm Beach, Fla., provided by Brint Ryan, CEO of a Dallas-based tax services firm.

The Nerve’s review found that of the $37,909 in total travel reimbursements last year, $21,004, or 55 percent, was from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Governors Association, whose primary mission, according to its website, is to “help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation.” Haley in November easily won a second four-year term as governor.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

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