SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - House Speaker Bobby Harrell's challenger for his District 114 seat thinks an independent investigation into how more than a quarter of a million dollars of reimbursements of the Speaker's campaign money was spent needs to take place.
After an open forum at Beech Hill Elementary in Summerville between Harrell and his challenger John Steinberger, the Speaker said the reimbursements he made from his campaign account to his personal credit cards for legislative travel were all ethical.
"The way that I conducted my business over the last few years has been to absolutely make sure that I do things the right way," said Harrell.
The speaker declined to release his spending reports and receipts to Live 5 News because he says he's already spoken to the media earlier this week.
"I sat down with an Associated Press reporter a few weeks ago and told her she could look at the records as long as she wanted to," said Harrell. "We went through them for 2 1/2 hours, page by page, she made dozens of notes and wrote a story that said I had the receipts I was supposed to have and I have done things the way you are supposed to do them."
In the same Associated Press report, Harrell mentioned he paid back $23,000 of the money because he couldn't locate receipts after a move to a new office.
"If you can't locate it then I needed to do the right thing and put the money in and that's what I did," said Harrell.
Harrell says there's no way he'll be able to find the receipts or re-create the purchases. Because of that he says the best thing to do was put the questionable money back into the account.
However, Steinberger thinks an independent investigation needs to take place instead of one by the SC House Ethics Committee after the November elections.
"We don't know if he's done anything wrong," said Steinberger. "It needs to be looked at by a grand jury and the Attorney General's office if anything comes up. If he filed everything correctly and he accounted for his expenditures he'll be cleared."
The Associated Press reports Harrell reimbursed himself almost $280,000 from campaign money over the last four years.
Harrell says reimbursements were made to his personal credit cards. He used the cards were for travel, hotel stays and flights on his personal plane since 2008.