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After suspension but no conviction, will Columbia councilman be paid for lost time?

Moe Baddourah calls 911 after domestic violence incident

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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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.

For the 19 months he was suspended from Columbia City Council, awaiting resolution of a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence, Councilman Moe Baddourah will not receive his city salary, according to a city spokeswoman.

Baddourah was not convicted of domestic violence, and the charge will be dropped from his record as if it never existed after he has completed a pretrial intervention program.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster suspended Baddourah from office in March 2017, after the District 3 councilman was indicted on a charge of second-degree criminal domestic violence. After Baddourah was accepted to a pretrial intervention program, McMaster on Oct. 17 ended the councilman’s 19-month suspension.

The domestic violence charge stemmed from a June 2016 incident between Baddourah and his then-estranged wife. 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.

Despite the fact that Baddourah was suspended for an offense that, legally, he was not guilty of, the councilman will not be paid for the time he was forced out of office.

City spokeswoman Leshia Utsey confirmed that Baddourah would not receive back pay for his $13,350 annual salary, worth about $21,000 for the time Baddourah was suspended. The verdict came from the city’s human resources department, Utsey told The State.

Last week, Baddourah had said he and city staff were looking into whether he could be paid for his lost time.

“The city staff and the council had no idea how to react to that, because I was the only councilman ever suspended by the governor, so nobody knew anything,” Baddourah said. “The proper thing to do is for Gov. Henry McMaster to pay me for all the back pay.”

Councilman Howard Duvall, who represents the city at-large, said he believes that Baddourah should be paid for his suspended time.

“My position has been that the governor improperly removed him from office in the first place,” Duvall said. “He was charged with a misdemeanor, which, in my experience, I have never seen an official removed for a misdemeanor.”

If the question of paying Baddourah “ever came to council,” Duvall said, “I would pay for it.”

Baddourah, whose District 3 stretches from the Five Points and Shandon area to areas along Garners Ferry Road in south Columbia, said he “never stopped being involved” while he was suspended.

In his week and a half back in office, Baddourah said he has jumped back into ongoing constituent issues including a debate over historic overlays and demolition in some neighborhoods, a potential cellphone tower on Rosewood Drive and a lingering discussion about new athletic fields at Dreher High School.

“To be honest with you, it’s like I never left,” Baddourah said.

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