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December 22, 2012

McBride rejects legislators’ demands that she resign

COLUMBIA, SC The saga of embattled Richland County elections director Lillian McBride on Friday took another twist.

A majority of the Richland County Legislative Delegation sent McBride a letter demanding that she resign by 4 p.m. But her attorney issued a 3:30 p.m. statement to inform the public that his client would do no such thing.

As pressure mounted to oust McBride, Allen Dowdy, the acting chairman of the Richland County Elections & Voter Registration Board, announced that he intends to convene a meeting as soon as possible.

The delegation’s letter also called on the board to meet no later than Dec. 28 to remove McBride from the position they appointed her to. But Dowdy’s announcement said members would not be able to gather until Jan. 2 or 3 because of holiday schedules.

Dowdy said he wants “the board to address immediately the conclusions contained in the delegation’s statement.”

Eleven members of the 16-member delegation signed the letter as their patience wore thin over the election debacle. On Wednesday, the group held a closed-door meeting during which McBride’s attorney, John Nichols, told them that she would resign, effective Jan. 8.

An hour after the meeting ended, McBride emailed a statement to “Valued Members of the Press,” saying reports of her resignation were erroneous and premature.

On Friday, Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, called the meeting a “waste of time” and questioned McBride’s judgment.

Rutherford said the delegation was on the verge of allowing McBride to return to her old job as head of voter registration if she would resign from running elections. Now, that deal is unlikely, he said.

“At this point, it begs the question, ‘Are you even competent to do that if you don’t follow through on what you said you would do?’” Rutherford said. “Somebody has to answer for what happened and to continue to act like it didn’t does not cut the mustard.”

On behalf of McBride, Nichols wrote that McBride serves at the pleasure of the elections board and that she would follow any instructions and abide by any decisions made by that body.

Nichols also wrote that McBride looked forward to the final report written by Steve Hamm, a lawyer hired by the board to investigate the election mess.

“We look forward to Mr. Hamm’s final report so that we can all make decisions based upon complete information,” Nichols wrote. “In the meantime, Mrs. McBride will continue to execute the duties of her office until the Board instructs otherwise.”

On Friday, Rutherford said he was prepared to start removing board members or rewriting laws to remove McBride from office.

“Enough is enough,” he said.

The delegation was on the verge of taking a “no confidence” vote Wednesday when Nichols told them that McBride planned to resign. Reporters covering the meeting sent dispatches to their newsroom and tweeted the plans. Then, McBride sent her email denying the reports.

Demands for McBride’s resignation have been growing since the bungled Nov. 6 election. Voters stood in line for hours countywide because there were not enough voting machines at precincts. The missteps also included broken machines and lost ballots that caused a delay in determining results in multiple races.

Only the county elections board members, who are appointed by the delegation, can fire McBride. The board’s chairwoman, Liz Crum, quit on Monday after her colleagues failed to take disciplinary action against McBride. Four members remain.

The 11 legislators who signed the letter demanding McBride’s resignation included Republicans Sen. President Pro Tempore John Courson, Sen.-elect Kirkman Finlay and Rep. Nathan Ballentine Among the Democrats were Sen. Joel Lourie, Sen. Thomas McElveen, Rep. Todd Rutherford, Rep. Joseph McEachern, Rep. James E. Smith Jr., Rep. Mia McLeod, Rep. Christopher Hart and Rep.-elect Beth Bernstein.

Those who did not to sign the document were Sen. Darrell Jackson, the delegation’s chairman, Sen. John Scott, Rep. Joseph Neal, Rep. Leon Howard and Rep. Jimmy Bales, all Democrats.

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