[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/27/art.nikkihaley8.nh.jpg caption ="GOP gubernatorial front runner Nikki Haley made her 2009 tax records available to reporters Thursday."]
Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) – The engineering executive who hired Nikki Haley for consulting work while she served in the South Carolina legislature said Friday that Haley's political and business connections helped his company get ahead.
Haley, now the frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, was paid $2,000 in 2008 by the engineering firm, Wilbur Smith Associates. The income was disclosed Thursday after Haley made her 2009 tax records available to reporters. Her 2008 paycheck did not clear until 2009, she said.
Her opponent in the June 22 runoff election, Rep. Gresham Barrett, had previously revealed his income and tax records in keeping with federal disclosure laws.
Haley was hired as a consultant by Robert Ferrell, the southeast region business development manager for Wilbur Smith Associates.
Ferrell told CNN that Haley, a state representative from Lexington County, entered into "a business relationship" with the firm in 2007 or 2008. Their relationship extends back to when the two served together on the Lexington Chamber of Commerce board of directors, he said.
"I knew her to be a connected person who had access to a lot of folks and information, and in my business, that sort of information is critical to get ahead," Ferrell told CNN. "If she would hear about things that were going on, primarily county-type stuff, or developers who were getting ready to do stuff, she would give us a heads up, and we would see where it went."
He said Haley no longer does work for the company. Haley, who has made transparency in government a central plank of her campaign, has not elaborated on what specific kind of work she did for the engineering firm.
Ferrell said he has made a practice of hiring well-connected people to keep the company apprised of potential business prospects. But he stressed that Haley "was not a lobbyist" and did not tip the firm off to forthcoming state contracts.
"She was simply a contact person who had access to information through the normal course of her business and contacts," Ferrell said. "Periodically we will retain people who have connections to certain parts of the industry that we do business with. They give us leads. They help us with things."
Haley told The State newspaper Friday that she recused herself from votes involving the company.
The newspaper also reported that Haley had previously failed to disclose her work for Wilbur Smith Associates in state ethics filings. The State Ethics Commission, however, said Haley did not violate any laws by failing to disclose the income.
Asked about the income on Friday, Haley told reporters in Charleston, "I have always followed the rules of the law. I will continue follow the rules of the law."