Richland Co. election panel meets today

4 members are under pressure to act on McBride

jmonk@thestate.comJanuary 3, 2013 

Richland County Elections Director Lillian McBride address the Richland County legislative delegation during a hearing about what went wrong in the Nov. 6 Richland County elections.

C. ALUKA BERRY — Buy Photo

— One has an interstate interchange named for her. Another runs a catering business. Another is a retired BellSouth employee, and another a finance adviser.

Today, the four members of the Richland County Elections & Voter Registration Commission will meet again to take up the November elections controversy and possibly discuss the fate of embattled county elections director Lillian McBride, whose office oversaw perhaps the most bungled county election in modern state history.

A majority of the Richland County Legislative Delegation have said she should step down. But McBride, the state’s highest-paid county elections director at $89,124 a year, so far has refused.

Today’s spotlight also will be on the four members who could decide McBride’s fate — Adell Adams, Elaine DuBose, Herbert Sims and acting chair Allen Dowdy. During their last meeting in December, the four declined to take any action, prompting the sudden resignation of longtime commission chairman Liz Crum. Crum’s vacancy has not been filled.

Efforts to reach the four commission members Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Members are appointed by the county legislative delegation and receive $1,500 a year in taxpayer dollars for their service. Among current members:

• Adams, 71, is a retired public-school music teacher who taught 31 years Richland and Fairfield counties. The north Columbia resident also is former president of the Richland County Education Association and past president of the NAACP Columbia branch. In 2011, the county legislative delegation got the General Assembly to request that the state Department of Transportation name the intersection of I-20 and S.C. 555 the Adell T. Adams Interchange. She has served on the commission for many years.

Sims, 59, the commission’s newest member, is a retired state worker who now runs a catering business. He lives in the Hopkins area of Lower Richland and for many years has been a poll worker at the Gadsden precinct.. Sims was chosen by the delegation last month from more than 20 applicants.

• Dowdy, 71, runs a finance business and lives in Gadsden in Lower Richland. Now acting chair of the election commission, Dowdy has been on the commission for years.

• Dubose, who appears to be in her 60s, is a retired Southern Bell employee.

Public interest in their actions is running high since Crum’s resignation.

Crum, who said she had “lost confidence” in McBride, had wanted the commission to fire the elections director. But after Crum failed to get a majority of other commissioners to go along with her, she resigned Dec.18.

Since then, 11 of the 16-member Richland County Legislative Delegation sent McBride a letter Dec. 21, demanding she resign that day. In the same letter, the delegation majority called on the commission to meet by Dec. 28 to remove McBride.

However, commission members haven’t been able to meet until today.

Dowdy has said he wants the commission to address the delegation’s statement at today’s meeting.

The commission also is expected to hear an update from attorney Steve Hamm on his investigation into Richland County’s problems during the Nov. 6 election. The commission hired Hamm in November to take a detailed look at what went wrong.

The election, in which more than 160,000 voted, was marked by an extreme shortage of machines at dozens of the county’s 124 precincts, waits of up to seven hours for some voters, lost ballots and legal challenges. An uncounted number of would-be voters left precincts without casting ballots due to the unusually long lines.

Although a decided majority of Richland County voters appear to want McBride to leave office, based on what a majority of the delegation says, she enjoys an almost untouchable status as an employee. The delegation that hired her in 2011 doesn’t have the power to fire her, and a commission majority — which can remove her — appears not to want to fire her.

Among McBride’s supporters are U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland.

“At this point, I’m just sitting on the sidelines and watching,” said longtime Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland. “No telling what will happen.”

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