The State Ethics Commission is interested in whether Republican Gov. Nikki Haley will have to reimburse the state for resources used when she travelled in a state-issued vehicle to a fundraiser in North Carolina with two of her campaign aides. 

News of the trip surfaced following reports that her vehicle had crashed into a pole with her in the car. Paul Bowers has a report on the collision here. “A collision report states that Kenneth G. Williamson of West Columbia was driving a 2011 Chevrolet SUV with three passengers in the vehicle: Haley, political advisor and former Haley chief of staff Tim Pearson, and Marissa Crawford (possibly a misspelling of Haley campaign fundraiser Marisa Crawford),” Bowers reported.

The SUV Haley and her aides were traveling in was driven by an agent with the State Law Enforcement Division and was provided by the Department of Public Safety. Haley and her campaign crew were in the Tarheel State for a retreat hosted by a political group supporting North Carolina GOP Gov. Pat McCrory. While there, Haley took in several campaign contributions from North Carolina entities, according to her campaign finance records.

A spokesman in the governor’s office told media the trip was not campaign related.

“The governor was not an announced candidate (she announced her re-election bid Monday) nor was this a campaign event,” Haley spokesman Doug Mayer told The State newspaper. “Since there were no additional costs, no reimbursement is required.”

Regulators at the state’s ethics agency, however, are disputing the claim. 

State Ethics Commission deputy director Cathy Hazelwood said she’ll be sending Haley a letter addressing the remarks her spokesman made to the press.

“This is a campaign event in the sense that she received a bunch of campaign money,” Hazelwood says. “So there needs to be proper reimbursement to the state and proper disclosure.”

She added that Haley is a candidate according to the state’s definition and she attended a campaign event in the sense that she collected campaign money. 

John Crangle, who directs the state chapter of Common Cause, a Columbia-based government watchdog group, said it was telling that the crash went unreported and news of state resources being involved only came out because of the accident. Reports of the wreck first appeared on the politics blog FITSnews, attributed to anonymous sources. 

“There’s no telling how many trips she’s made at the state’s expense,” Crangle says. 

UPDATE: The State newspaper in Columbia is reporting now that State Ethics Commission director Herb Hayden says the agency never ended up sending a letter. 

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