Richland Council balks at paying ‘election mess’ legal fees

dhinshaw@thestate.comMay 8, 2013 

  • No decision on elections director

    The Board of Elections & Voter Registration met behind closed doors Wednesday for 11/2 hours but announced no decision on hiring a new director to replace Lillian McBride.

    Chairman Allen Dowdy would say only that the board continues to look into the background of the only remaining candidate for the job, Howard Jackson, Orangeburg County’s elections director.

    Pete Kennedy, a poll clerk, asked the board to repost the job after two other candidates dropped out of the running, one for personal reasons and the other because he’s decided the job wasn’t a good fit.

    Kennedy said if the board ends up hiring Jackson “by default,” it will further damage the public’s confidence in the elections office.

    Dowdy said Wednesday the board would meet again soon but offered no date.

  • More information

    Dawn Hinshaw

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.

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