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Executive: Nikki Haley did not win work for S.C. engineering firm

When she was a state representative, Gov. Nikki Haley did not lobby or provide aid in getting state government contracts for a Columbia engineering firm but she failed to win any new business while working as a consultant, a company executive testified at her S.C. Ethics Committee hearing Thursday.

Haley was hired in business development to use her contacts to find new private work for Wilbur Smith and Associates, said Robert Ferrell, vice president for the company who met the governor while serving on a chamber of commerce board.

Haley was told she was not hired to lobby on behalf of the firm, he said. She also did not help Wilbur Smith settle a dispute with the S.C. Department of Agriculture over engineering work done at a proposed State Farmers Market site in Richland County.

“It was a passive position,” Ferrell said, “Just keep your eyes and ears open if your hear something” about private business.

But Haley did not win any new work for firm in her 23-month stint at the firm where she received $48,000 in pay, he said, Haley was let go in 2008 because of the souring economy dried up potential work, Ferrell said.

Attorneys representing the House said the case is focusing on seven allegations against Haley, when she was a state representative from Lexington from 2005-10. The allegations were made by GOP activist John Rainey, who chaired the state Board of Economic Advisors under Gov, Mark Sanford.

Haley is accused of using her office for personal gain and to help her employers, failing to properly fill out economic disclosure statements, failing to disclose conflicts of interest while casting a vote and lobbying while serving as a lawmaker.

In his opening statement, Butch Bowers, one of the attorneys representing Haley, compared Rainey to the Chickenhawk character on Looney Tunes, who is duped and keeps believing that a dog is a chicken,

“He’s misinformed, misguided and mistaken,” Bowers said.”Just because he says it with conviction, doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Haley faces a reprimand or having her case referred to the S.C. Attorney General.