Richland County To Pay Election Commission's Legal Fees

Richland County to pay legal fees

Richland County, SC (WLTX) - More issues surround the Richland County Voter Registration and Election's Commission.

Last week its director Sam Selph was found in contempt of court for failing to pay $38,470.15 of the commission's legal fees from 2014.

On Tuesday Richland County Council met to decide how to pay those bills. After over an hour of discussion council passed a first reading motion to pay the fees.

"There was no other alternative that we could come up with other than using the county's fund balance to pay for it," Councilman Greg Pearce said. "Somehow these people were held personally liable for an action when they shouldn't have been in my mind. And as it filtered down, no one else would help them, no one else would step up, so the county is going to bail them out even though we are not responsible for any of this."

The fees stem from a 2011 court case involving the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation and the county's Voter Registration and Elections Commission

The South Carolina Public Interest Foundation argued that the agency should be two separate units, but lost after state legislators passed a law saying that the commission could legally operate as one entity.

Even though the commission was the prevailing party, the judge ordered the commission to pay the foundation's attorney fees.

Chairman Torrey Rush and Councilman Bill Malinowski voted against the motion.

"I've just got some concerns about where their dollars are coming from and the way it's being proposed to us. It's being put into the hands of Richland County Council when it's not our responsibility," Torrey Rush said.

While discussing the issue, council was unanimous in saying they don't believe that it's their responsibility, but there is no clear answer as to whose responsibility it is.

"I want to make sure that doesn't happen again, so I will be putting in some sort of request for consideration of council to pass an ordinance that we're not ever going to do this again," Pearce said.

Meanwhile, Selph, who has been in contempt of court since Friday for not paying the fees, hopes Judge Strickland will now see in his favor.

"I think that he will see that we are making every effort that we can to satisfy this judgment and I think that my position in being held in contempt of court will be lifted," Selph said.

Council is set to take up a second reading and a public hearing on October 4. The action will need three readings to officially take effect. Chairman Rush said this should not interfere with the November general election.

(© 2016 WLTX)


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