GOV. NIKKI HALEY was right to declare Kelvin Washington’s seat on Richland County Council vacant after he confessed to not filing state income tax returns for three years.
Relying on an opinion from the attorney general’s office, Gov. Haley on Wednesday declared Mr. Washington’s District 10 seat vacant because not filing income tax returns is a crime of moral turpitude. Local officials convicted of such a crime forfeit their positions, according to the attorney general’s opinion.
Haley orders Richland councilman removed from seat
We noted two weeks ago that Mr. Washington’s credibility was damaged when he pleaded guilty on Feb. 10. That credibility was further eroded when he was accused Feb. 27 of felony DUI. Police say Mr. Washington drove into the back of another car that had slowed on Bluff Road to make a left turn.
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We wish Mr. Washington had resigned after the felony DUI charge. As we noted two weeks ago, his continuing presence on Richland County Council reflected badly on all council members. They did not need that added burden while facing the daunting tasks of helping the county recover from the October floods and resolving serious questions raised by the state Department of Revenue about the county’s roads program.
Unfortunately, Mr. Washington did not resign. Thanks to Gov. Haley, he’s gone from office.
He should not consider an appeal of the governor’s order. Her decision was based on a thorough opinion from the attorney general’s office that cited the state constitution, previous attorney general opinions, and a state Supreme Court ruling. The constitution clearly states that any local official convicted of a crime of moral turpitude forfeits the office. The opinions cited by the attorney general’s office clearly say that 1) not filing income tax returns is dishonest and 2) dishonesty is a crime of moral turpitude.
Veteran Lexington prosecutor Myers retiring
The attorney general’s office issued its opinion after Gov. Haley inquired about Mr. Washington’s legal troubles and those of 11th Circuit Solicitor Donnie Myers.
Mr. Myers was accused of DUI in February after the car he was driving left a Lexington County road and hit a utility pole. State troopers say he failed field sobriety tests and his blood-alcohol level was 0.09 percent.
The attorney general’s office said Gov. Haley cannot suspend or remove the solicitor from office because DUI is not a crime of moral turpitude.
However, Mr. Myers announced on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in November to another four-year term.
The announcement did not cite his legal problems. Rather, Mr. Myers noted that if he won, state law would force him to retire after he turns 72 next year.
Attorney general’s opinion
Like Mr. Washington’s departure, Mr. Myers’ pending departure is good news for our community. But if he is convicted on the DUI charge, it is not enough.
This would be his third alcohol-related conviction in 11 years. And as we noted in another editorial, calling for him to resign if convicted, it would indicate either that he has a drinking problem or that he believes he is above the law.
The prosecution of criminal cases in Lexington County and the rest of the 11th Circuit is too important to be tainted — even for a few months — by a solicitor who has such a problem or who holds that belief.
If Mr. Myers is acquitted, we can’t argue with him serving out his term. But if he is convicted, he needs to follow Mr. Washington out of office.