The South Carolina Attorney General’s office is looking at complaints from a former top election official who was fired about problems in two recent Richland County elections.
“The matter is under review by our office,” Mark Powell, spokesman for Attorney General Alan Wilson, said Thursday.
That revelation comes as former county election director Howard Jackson has gone to court seeking damages for his dismissal in February 2014.
Wilson’s review follows an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division into problems Jackson has said occurred in elections in 2012 and 2013.
The only claim Jackson has made publically is that hundreds of absentee votes were uncounted in the November 2012 election, run by his predecessor, Lillian McBride. .
A penny sales tax for roads and buses was approved narrowly in the 2012 election after many voters waited for hours and others left without voting because of inadequate numbers of voting machines at many precincts.
Jackson’s lawsuit describes what happened then as “a public scandal of utter incompetency, corruption, voting irregularities and violations of state and federal election laws.”
Those problems led to replacement of most members of the county election commission and moving McBride to another job. Some political leaders called for her firing.
Jackson is seeking damages from the county and current director Samuel Selph based on claims similar to those made when he was fired after eight months from his $78,000-a-year position. Those claims by Jackson include:
▪ Commission members demanded Jackson keep on a former white aide, who is the brother-in-law of State Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland
▪ When the aide resigned, commission members were upset Jackson, who is black, sought to hire another black election official from the Lowcountry for the job.
▪ Commission members engaged in “racial intimidation, retaliation and discrimination.”
▪ Selph and unnamed officials told others that Jackson was terminated “for incompetence and committing unethical and illegal acts.”
Jackson suffered for refusing to carry out illegal orders, his attorneys, Butch Bowers and Robert Goings, said.
“This is an egregious abuse of power by the Richland County Board of Elections,” Bowers said.
Jackson’s legal effort to win damages was authorized by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the lawsuit said.
County officials say they aren’t at fault for what a commission appointed by state legislators allegedly did.
“None of the actions or omissions that are complained of by Mr. Jackson were taken by Richland County employees, Richland County Council or agents of Richland County,” County Administrator Tony McDonald said.
Selph, who was on the commission when Jackson was fired, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483