Election legal fees

Richland delays payment of legal fees, again

dhinshaw@thestate.com May 21, 2013 

Benedict freshman, Kadeeja Vaughn rests her eyes on her boyfriend's shoulder while waiting in line to vote at the David H. Swinton Campus Center. Election Day in Richland County.

KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN — kkfoster@thestate.com Buy Photo

— A charge for $112.50 kept members of Richland County Council from paying the attorney fees related to the Nov. 6 election debacle – again – Tuesday.

The council asked their staff lawyer to audit 46 pages of bills totaling $101,675.80 to remove anything the county shouldn’t have been charged.

Brad Farrar said a 30-minute telephone conversation between John Nichols and then-elections director Lillian McBride about her “resignation statement” was the only thing that jumped out as an inappropriate charge.

The Dec. 21 conversation was “not really in the scope” of the county’s contract with Nichols, Farrar said.

By unanimous vote, the council delayed paying the bills due to three lawyers until Farrar audits them and returns to the council with an exact figure.

Nichols’ bill of $9,461.25 has come under scrutiny after he told The State that, among other things, he helped McBride negotiate with the elections board for a new county position.

McBride was in charge of the elections office in November during what’s considered one of the biggest election disasters in state history.

Chairman Kelvin Washington, saying the dollar amount in question was “miniscule,” accused his colleagues of trying to make political points by prolonging the issue.

“You only identified half an hour that you’ve got questions about?” he asked Farrar.

Washington continued: “I just want my colleagues to understand how miniscule – and we’re trying to publicize this thing. ... We keep this in the news with no reason at all. We’re talking about a miniscule amount compared with everything we do – $9,000.”

But Councilman Bill Malinowski said “there are other questions way above this $9,000.”

And Councilman Norman Jackson said he wanted to know what came of the county-funded investigation into election-office mistakes. Attorney Steve Hamm has yet to release his final report to the elections board.

Specifically, Jackson said, he’d like to know whether SLED or the FBI was called in.

“I’m not trying to prolong it,” he told Washington. “I would like to see it go away as quickly as possible.”

The 20-minute debate was held in public, after initially being listed as a closed-door topic.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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