Senate Ethics Committee files complaint against Cleary - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Senate Ethics Committee files complaint against Cleary

Ray Cleary. (Source: MyHorryNews.com) Ray Cleary. (Source: MyHorryNews.com)

From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com:

The S.C. Senate Ethics Committee accused Sen. Ray Cleary of misusing campaign funds and knowingly filing false campaign reports.

The committee filed a complaint against the Murrells Inlet senator, whose District 34 stretches from southern Horry County to Charleston County.

Filed Thursday, the complaint says Cleary knowingly filed an amendment to his campaign disclosure form reflecting that a personal reimbursement was made to his campaign banking account when the reimbursement was not made.

The report also says Cleary misrepresented certain expenditures; converted campaign funds for personal use; and failed to report certain expenditures and contributions.

The allegations cover the reporting periods from April 1, 2013, through Jan. 10 of this year.

Cleary said he wanted to be open and honest about all of the allegations, including some he didn’t realize were actual violations.

“I admit that some of my reports were wrong,” he said. “But the errors were due to negligence, not intentional or criminal.”

Cleary said some of the problems were caused by a staff person filling out the reports who didn’t correlate the campaign reports to the campaign’s bank account.

He said the staffer has done the reports for years but just made a mistake.

As for using campaign money for personal use, Cleary said part of the problem was a trip he took with 16 other state legislators to Israel.

“I thought that campaign funds could be used for part of the expenses of the trip,” he said. “Many others have taken trips all over the world using their funds.”

Another situation involved personal contributions coming out of his campaign coffers. He said he had made contributions to the Boy Scouts and for Autism.

“Who knew you couldn’t make contributions, I didn’t,” Cleary said.

Cleary said when he found there were mistakes, he reported them to the committee and tried to reimburse every questionable discrepancy.

As to the use of campaign funds for personal use, Cleary said the ethics laws are very vague.

“Proper use of these funds is in the eye of the beholder,” he said.

Cleary has 15 days to respond to the complaint and ask for a hearing before the committee.

If the committee decides against him, Cleary could face a fine of up to $2,000 for each violation, could be forced to forfeit all gifts, receipts or profits he gained from any of the violations, be kicked out of the Senate or face criminal charges by the Attorney General.

Cleary didn’t seek re-election to the Senate this November. He said it had nothing to do with the ethics charges.

“I’m just burned out,” he said. “I’m trying to run a full-time dental business and I need to spend more time with my family.

He added that he was looking forward to presenting his case to the committee.

“I’ve been open and pro-active about this from the start,” Cleary said. “I don’t want anyone to say I’ve tried to cover it up.”

By Tom O’Dare tom.odare@myhorrynews.com

View the original story on MyHorryNews.com here.

© Copyright 2016 Waccamaw Publishers, Inc., 2510 N. Main Street Conway, SC 

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