South Carolina Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, facing a state grand jury investigation into his admitted ethics violations, showed up for work Tuesday to say he will not resign — quieting whispers of back-door maneuvering to succeed the embattled Florence Republican as the states second-highest-ranking elected official.
I have no interest in resigning, Ard said. We are cooperating fully with the AGs (attorney generals) office to bring this thing to a conclusion. Thats all I want to say now out of respect to those involved. Theres a lot of human emotion, sure there is. And Ive got a family. But I dont want to go there.
Im not afraid. Im not intimidated, he added. I just mean what I said. Im not going to resign.
It was Ards first public comment since the State Ethics Commission fined him $48,400 and required him to reimburse his campaign $12,121.35 for using campaign contributions to buy personal items, including a PlayStation 3, two iPads and a cell phone plan for his wife.
Last week, state Attorney General Alan Wilson referred Ards ethics violations to the state grand jury for possible criminal prosecution prompting a discussion among the states most influential lawmakers of what to do should Ard resign.
But Ards appearance Tuesday in the Senate, where he presides, and his refusal to resign derailed those discussions for now.
(Ard) called to let me now that he was going to be here to discharge his duties. I see him doing that, and weve kind of put that issue on the back burner, said Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, who would become lieutenant governor should Ard step down.
Ards criminal investigation is not on the back burner.
Monday, Wilson, along with State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, signed a petition asking Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman to approve a state grand jury investigation. The investigation now becomes secret, under state law.
If indicted, Ard could be suspended from office by Gov. Nikki Haley. If suspended, Ard would give up his $46,545-a-year state salary, and a member of the Senate would preside over the Senate when that body is in session.
Democrats have called on Ard to resign, and some House Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a bill to allow voters to recall statewide elected officials, a move clearly aimed at Ard.
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