SC Representative Merrill in court; Judge sets $146k PR bond

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South Carolina Representative James Merrill faced a bond judge this morning in Richland County on 30 charges related to misconduct in office and ethics violation. Judge R. Knox McMahon set a $146,000 PR bond.

Merrill, former majority leader and current member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, is accused of receiving more than $390,000 from the SC Association of Realtors in exchange for using his position to influence legislation benefiting the association. The indictment against Merrill shows he participated in a conference call with the association in which he solicited funding for assistance regarding the “point of sale” property tax reform. In January 2009, Merrill sponsored bill H3272 regarding the “point of sale” legislation which directly benefited the association or its affiliates. In 2009, the First Circuit Solicitor says Merrill received about $211,925.00 from the association or its affiliates. Merrill also sponsored bill H3713 regarding real property tax legislation in February 2011.

Merrill was indicted on two counts of Misconduct in Office and 28 counts for violations of the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act of 1991.

Click here to see indictment:
press-release-and-indictments-on-james-h-merrill

Matthew R. Hubbell and Leon E. Stavrinakis represent Merrill and issued the following statement on December 14th.

“Representative Jim Merrill adamantly denies the charges brought against him by Solicitor David Pascoe. He has served honorably and in good faith as a part time member of the General Assembly. For over 20 years, his vocation and livelihood has been in the field of advertising, direct mail, and public relations.

Contrary to the flawed allegations made today, the work performed by Jim Merrill’s private company was completely legal and legitimate. Solicitor Pascoe has charged Representative Merrill for conduct that is not illegal under South Carolina law. In fact, the charges include conduct that has been declared legal in written opinions by the South Carolina Attorney General, the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee, and the State Ethics Commission.

Representative Merrill acted in good faith and looks forward to defending himself in court.”