All 16 S.C. solicitors would be required to have an independent financial audit of their office spending by Dec. 1 under a proposal in play in the Legislature's final days.
The proposal, an amendment to the House's proposed state budget, was motivated in part by news reports this spring of excessive spending by 5th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, said Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, chairman of a S.C. House law enforcement subcommittee.
Pitts said he and other lawmakers have been mulling for years how to get more information on spending by solicitors. "It's timely with what is going on with Dan Johnson," said Pitts.
The FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division are investigating Johnson's spending, which has included numerous trips around the country, as well as to Europe, South America and the Galapagos Islands. Johnson also spent thousands on luxury Uber rides, trips to casino complexes and checks made out to "cash."
Solicitors can ask to be reimbursed for the cost of the audit from state money in next year's budget, Pitts said.
"The only time I've ever heard of people being against something like this was if they had something to hide," Pitts said. "I would think most solicitors would welcome it."
Third Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said, "Not only do I not object to the proposal, I understand why Reps. Pitts, (Phillip) Lowe and (Lonnie) Hosey are doing it."
After reports of his spending, Johnson said in March he had hired an independent auditor to review spending by his office. It is not known when that audit will be finished.
Johnson, who is seeking re-election in a contested Democratic primary in June, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Solicitors, or chief prosecutors, are the top law enforcement officers in each judicial circuit. The largest solicitors' offices have budgets in the millions of dollars. But solicitors' are not required to conduct audits and few restrictions are placed on how they can spend money.
If approved as part of the state budget that takes effect July 1, the audits would be given to the governor's office and the Legislature.