Baddourah allowed to return to Columbia council after 1.5-year suspension

Moe Baddourah
Moe Baddourah jblake@thestate.com

Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah will return to office after a 1.5-year suspension.

On Wednesday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster lifted Baddourah’s suspension, which the governor imposed March 13, 2017, after Baddourah was charged with second-degree criminal domestic violence.

The misdemeanor charge has been dropped and will be treated as if it never existed after Baddourah has completed a pretrial intervention program.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Baddourah indicated he would immediately resume his duties Thursday morning. His term expires in December 2019.

“The ‘time out’ imposed by the governor served to permit more personal focus on the divorce process and my children, but was very difficult for me in requiring me to stay on the sidelines,” Baddourah said in his statement. “I am now free to return to serve you, the citizens of the city of Columbia. I assure you that throughout this period of suspension, which has now ended, that I stayed well informed and will hit the ground running tomorrow morning for you.”

Baddourah was accepted into pretrial intervention a month ago. At that time, the governor’s office was coy on when or whether it would lift the councilman’s suspension.

South Carolina law allows the governor to remove an elected official if the official is indicted for a crime of “moral turpitude,” though it does not require the governor to do so. The governor has the sole authority to lift that suspension.

Baddourah, 55, was charged with second-degree criminal domestic violence after an argument with his then-estranged wife in June 2016. Baddourah’s now-ex-wife accused the councilman of slamming her leg in a car door after she had apparently taken his cellphone and wouldn’t give it back. Their children were present for the incident.

Baddourah and his lawyer, Joe McCulloch, have maintained that the incident was an accident.

In July 2017, four months after the governor’s order, Baddourah sued McMaster over his suspension, calling it “ill-conceived, unlawful and unconstitutional.”

“The action of the governor (Wednesday) ends the turmoil for my family,” Baddourah said in his statement Wednesday.

During Baddourah’s suspension, his District 3 constituents in the Shandon and Rosewood areas have gone without direct representation on Columbia City Council, even as their neighborhoods dealt with a number of contentious issues, including fights over zoning for a Zaxby’s drive-thru restaurant in Five Points and for new athletic fields at Dreher High School and a debate over late-night closing times for Five Points bars.

Richland County deputies say Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah has been arrested after slamming his estranged wife's leg in a car door during a child custody exchange.

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