Richland County should refuse to pay for the hours charged by a lawyer who helped negotiate a new county job for demoted elections director Lillian McBride, some on County Council said Wednesday.
Others said Richland County has no obligation to cover any of the legal bills — more than $153,000 — for investigating what went wrong during Nov. 6 balloting and defending the election results in court.
Councilman Seth Rose objected to the legal department’s request for the money, saying he’s frustrated the county had to boost funding for the elections office last year even though county officials have no hand in supervising its performance. That job goes to local legislators, who also set the funding.
Ultimately, council members deferred action.
Some council members specifically were upset to find that McBride’s attorney, John Nichols, negotiated with the elections board on a new position for McBride.
Councilman Damon Jeter said he came away from the discussion wondering whether other county employees get the same treatment. “In other words, if it’s offered to one, is it offered to all,” Jeter said.
Still, he was among those who said the county routinely pays bills submitted by its legal department without haggling over them.
“We’ve just got to pay the bills,” he said. “As far as I’ve been told, it’s just a function of county government.”
Councilman Greg Pearce, though, said it’s not the county’s responsibility. He said the Richland County legislative delegation should make the elections office pay for the bills.
“Just as a citizen,” he added, “I think Lillian McBride should pay for her own lawyer.”
Efforts to reach Nichols were unsuccessful Wednesday.
It’s not clear when the council will take up the matter again.
1/2 hours but announced no decision on hiring a new director to replace McBride.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.