Anti-tax advocates are questioning anew Lexington County Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat’s role as Lexington town economic development director.
The challenge over the job Jeffcoat has held since 2009 comes as county leaders again consider seeking voter approval of a sales tax for road improvements, an idea for which he is a leading advocate.
A new group calling itself The People for a Better Lexington is asking state ethics officials to review what they consider “special treatment” Jeffcoat received in hiring and compensation, group spokesman Wes Howard said. The decisions in question were made by the seven elected Town Council members.
Town leaders re-created a post abolished in 2005 and selected retired insurance agent Jeffcoat for it, citing his network of contacts. His appointment was attacked then as political favoritism.
Skepticism about Jeffcoat’s dual role continues, political consultant R.J. Shealy said.
“It’s always persisted below the surface,” said Shealy, a sales tax foe who said he is not affiliated with the group raising the matter. “Everybody has sat around waiting for somebody to make a case over it.”
The group’s conclusions are erroneous, but a review to clear up the suspicion is welcome, Jeffcoat said.
“All elected officials can be the subject of false allegations,” he said. “I’ve never had anyone question my integrity before.”
Town Mayor Steve MacDougall said the group’s claims are “so far off-base, it doesn’t deserve comment.”
Jeffcoat, from the Irmo area, is retiring in January 2017 as a council member after more than 20 years. As required, he abstained from a few County Council decisions specifically affecting the town.
The group didn’t submit a complaint that would start an investigation against Jeffcoat, instead asking ethics officials to look into the situation.
Members of the group seeking the review – whose identities are being kept secret by its leadership to prevent political retribution – are upset about taxes and other decisions, Howard said. It has a 50 members, including business owners and county employees, he said.
Howard, a former county paramedic, lost in a race for a County Council post in 2012 after running against alleged waste and inefficiency. He also led unsuccessful opposition to the town’s adoption last fall of a tax of two pennies on the dollar on dining out, take-out meals and snacks.
The push for a look at a possible ethics violation continues his habit of challenging authority, Howard said.
“I figure I can be more beneficial out of office,” he said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483