Showing posts with label corruptionsc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corruptionsc. Show all posts

A Clarendon Cover-up?

As the race to fill the vacant District 64 seat in the State House enters its final week, a race which was supposed to be a quiet, engineered succession by local Democratic party leaders has turned into a trail of embarassing news, including reports of political arm-twisting, angry threats and abuse of official resources, to help the Democrats hold onto a seat they had long taken for granted.

Republican Sonny Sanders will face Democratic nominee Kevin Johnson next Tuesday.

Asking "what is Kevin Johnson hiding", Sanders accused his Democratic opponent, who is Mayor of the Town of Manning, of stonewalling a FOIA request into reimbursements for expenses incurred by Johnson, pointing out that the Town did not respond to a request filed on February 24 until March 11 - nearly three weeks later - claiming they could not have the information ready until May, which would be several weeks after the special election was held.

You can see the Town of Manning's response to the FOIA request here.

The timing of this delayed release does seem suspect, but it's far from the first instance of political funny business that we've seen take place during this race.

Why do Abramoff's associates love Charleston?

We're not sure why former associates of convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff seem to find the Charleston area to be friendly turf these days, but if someone has an answer, we'd love to know.

We recently took some heat for reporting information which showed that Jim Hirni, a lobbyist with ties to Abramoff ties who pled guilty to federal corruption charges two years ago, has been circulating in Lowcountry political circles for at least a year now. But it looks like he's not the only former Abramoff associate on the loose in the Lowcountry.

Ralph Reed, a former Abramoff associate well-known both for leading the national Christian Coalition and for representing gambling interests, recently held a private gathering in the Lowcountry to help build support for his newest political effort: The Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Clarendon Democrats using official resources in House special election?

The Blogland has caught yet another Democrat using official resources for political activities. Today's scoundrel is Clarendon County Auditor Patricia Pringle.

The Blogland received a copy of an email sent by Pringle seeking to turn out attendees at an upcoming Democratic Party event. Several phone calls confirmed the event was intended to rally support for Democratic State House candidate Kevin Johnson, who faces Republican Sonny Sanders in an upcoming special election to fill the vacant District 64 seat in Clarendon and Williamsburg Counties.

Even funnier is that while the email didn't come to our attention until some Johnson supporters began printing it out and stuffing it in mailboxes around the district.

This special election race has become a Keystone Cops circus drama for Democrats. In any other district, the fumbles, ethical screw-ups and botched plots would doom their chances at the seat, but in District 64, they may well succeed in spite of themselves. But in a special election, such bungling is exactly what Republicans need to win the seat now, and then make it more competitive later this year during reapportionment.

Dem backlash over House 64 primary vote?

The Blogland has received several reports of threats, some of the obscene and angry, floating around Clarendon County in the wake of last Tuesday's upset defeat of Clarendon County Council Chair Dwight Stewart, a white Democrat, by Manning Mayor Kevin Johnson, a Democrat whose ancestors were brought from Africa in bondage (so no, he's not white, as if skin color matters).

Some of the threats revolved around articles published in the Blogland - for which we don't apologize.

One of those threats came in a phone call to yours truly, which was pretty funny. It's happened before, with some of the threats in considerable detail, but nobody's touched me yet. Threats which have included reporting about classroom locations and dismissal times, threats to get me fired, run out of state, etc.

But I'm still here, and I'm not going anywhere.

A vote of no confidence at SC State

--Provide and implement a compelling vision for the university.
--Adhere to shared governance by refusing to communicate with the elected representatives of the faculty.
--Uphold policy and to properly oversee the financial status, including the cash flow, of the university, as found by the outside financial consulting firm Elliott Davis.

The document also states that Cooper has "ignored public scrutiny regarding the University's financial status and has provided no answers or embarrassing answers to the public particularly, regarding the James E. Clyburn Transportation Center."

The document includes a closing appeal from the Faculty Senate that the no-confidence vote "warrants immediate attention and action."

The institution has been a source of considerable controversy, and Cooper is right in the middle of it. 

Democrats strong-arming in Clarendon House race?

The House race to replace the late state Representative Cathy Harvin has turned into a wide-open race with six candidates in the race: four Democrats and two Republicans.

The Blogland has had a number of reports of strong-arming taking place to keep candidates out of the race. This strong-arming was aimed at benefitting the one white Democratic candidate in the race: Clarendon County Council Chair Dwight Stewart.

Former Lee County Sheriff in more trouble, connected to State House candidate

Already deep in trouble with the feds on drug charges, former Lee County Sheriff E.J Melvin, who was forced out of the office in May when initially charged by the feds, has been indicted on nearly fifty federal charges:

Former Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin has been indicted on 47 new charges, including racketeering and money laundering, and prosecutors said Wednesday the allegations represent more layers of a complex drug conspiracy case.

They said Melvin's cooperation with drug dealers dates to early 2001, the year he was sworn in as sheriff. That year, prosecutors said in the 45-page indictment, Melvin began soliciting bribes from dealers in return for his protection.

Melvin also trafficked drugs himself, prosecutors allege, "describing himself to an associate as 'untouchable.' "

Dying to re-elect Ed Clements?

In Ed Clements' tenure as Solicitor, an office he has held for nearly twelve years, he waits until the middle of a tough re-election battle to seek his first death penalty. If his Circuit was relatively crime-free, it might make sense, but Florence and Marion Counties are hotbeds of violent crimes, for which he has criticized by his challenger, former federal prosecutor Rose Mary Parham.

Dozens of murders, often gang and drug related, have plauged the two counties, often forcing Parham to bring in federal prosecution to get a handle where Clements' efforts failed to get results.

In this case, this decision to (finally) seek a death sentence is suspect for two reasons - first for the timing of the case, and then because the murder victims were informants in another case. According to SCNow, Montez Myhell Barker of Florence was charged with being, in effect, a contract killer:

12th Circuit Solicitor Clements cutting deals with defense attorneys on murder trials?

Clair Chaffin was one of the "Greatest Generation".  He was a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima, living in Florida and enjoying his retirement, traveling on vacation.

While the death penalty seems the appropriate course of action, the Solicitor, Ed Clements, has chosen not to pursue it. But since Robert Lee, who we've been informed is his campaign manager, (pictured with Clements at a campaign event to the right), is the defense counsel for one of the accused killers, it seems like another example of deals are being cut - and justice denied once more in the 12th Circuit.

Democratic House District 60 candidate a "Bad Cop"?

While Alvin Greene stands out as a gross failure of Democrats to screen their candidates for the 2010 South Carolina ballot, it seems that Greene is not the only shady character to have crawled out of the Pee Dee swamps to seek office.

Another example is the Benny Webb, who is challenging GOP Rep. Phillip Lowe in District 60 (Florence and Sumter Counties). Among Webb's close associates is indicted former Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin, who was joined by Webb at his recent arraignment on drug charges:

Melvin appeared about 10 pounds slimmer than when he was arrested and was joined by Benny Webb, a former SLED agent and current Democratic candidate for the state House District 60 seat, currently held by Rep. Phillip Lowe, R-Florence, who is seeking re-election. Webb sat next to Melvin and chatted with the former sheriff.

"Yes, ma'am," were the only words Melvin uttered in his court appearance, confirming to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paige Jones Gossett that he understood the charges and attendant penalties.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Webb's shady record.

Ed Clements campaign disclosures: Mo' problems, no money

Looks like Ed Clements, the Democratic 12th Circuit Solicitor, is having all sorts of problems with his campaign finance reports.

On Monday, we talked about how he's listing his office as his campaign address on his disclosure reports, but like the TV commericals likes to say: "But wait! There's more!"

Not only did we find his campaign finance reports for 2010 filed with 2007 reports, but we found another big problem with his finance reports - his opponent, former federal prosecutor Rose Mary Parham, is outright smoking him in the money race in the race.

Which might explain why those reports were uploaded to where nobody could find them. As many a veteran trial lawyer will tell you, hide the facts you don't want uncovered and hope nobody asks questions.

But in the Blogland, we LOVE to ask questions.

Ed Clements: More Hazzard County-style politics on the job

12th Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements just doesn't seem to know where to draw the line between his job and politics. The way we see it, he's starting to look like the Pee Dee's own version of Boss Hogg.

Though we're sure that the folks of Florence and Marion Counties wouldn't be too pleased to see how he does campaign business on the clock.

A while back, FITSNews busted him using his county-issued vehicle for blatant campaign purposes. Then we find that he's even using his office for campaign activities.

Time for a change at S.C. State University

When millions of dollars vanishes from a public institution of any kind, answers should be forthcoming - and promptly.

But for an academic institution, which is supposed to be the public institution which most values free and open inquiry, as well as holding rigorous standards for accuracy and truth, to refuse to provide prompt and complete answers is unthinkable - and inexcusable.

The ongoing problems at South Carolina State University are pretty serious, and they're nothing new. Which is why it's time for legislators and the Governor to take inspiration from the institution's slogan and apply a "new state of mind" to matters.

Bad business dealings dog Nancy Harrelson's candidacy

Recently, we discussed the bad business dealings of Nancy Harrelson, a perennial candidate who is waging a second bid for the Sixth Congressional District, on the heels of being defeated by two-to-one margins in her last two bids for office.

If she can't keep promises to people in her business, how can anyone expect her to keep promises if elected to Congress?

We've also talked with several party officials who have received calls this year, as well as 2008, from those who she owed money or services to, threatening to reveal her.

Since the first story ran, that's what they've been doing, and we'd like to share some of what they had to say.

The trap of naming things after living politicians

Once again, the practice of naming public facilities in Southern states is coming under scrutiny. This time in Alabama, where a reporter found more than one road and public facility is still bearing the name of politicians who were later sent to prison:

It's a corruption trifecta, and that's almost as good as a road to the dump.

That's not just a road map. It's a history lesson.

In a story from the news portal website AccessNorthGA, Derek Alderman, a cultural geographer at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. cautioned against that practice, which is also rampant in Georgia:

Their legacy isn't even established yet.  They are more susceptible to the politics of the day.

Which takes us back to a long-standing controversy here in South Carolina over this same practice of politicians naming things after each other.

Lee County Sheriff arrested in fed drug sting

Lee County Sheriff Edgar Jerome “EJ” Melvin, 47, of Bishopville was one of seven people arrested by state and federal authorities as part of a drug sting Saturday morning, according to a release from the US Attorney’s office.

Melvin has served as the Sheriff for Lee County, South Carolina, since 2001.

Also arrested Saturday morning in connection with the case were Brenda LaShawn Ellerby, 26; Antonio Holloman, 23; Larry Williams, 51; Eric Andre Hickman, 34; Anthony Lee Williams, 37, and Sheldon Maurice Bradley, 24, all of Bishopville, according to the release.

Melvin and the others arrested Saturday are charged in federal warrants with conspiracy since 2006 to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack in South Carolina, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 846, according to the release.

Melvin was re-elected to a third term in 2008, defeating Republican Jerry Tidwell. No word on if Tidwell, or someone else, will be appointed to replace Melvin.

Why convicted criminals should love Ed Clements

If you've been to prison, have a criminal record, and live in either Florence or Marion County, 12th Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements has great news for you:

Attend his workshop in expungement and learn how to get your criminal record wiped clean, allowing you to brush your history under the rug and prey upon unsuspecting citizens.

When the Blogland received an email from a reader, announcing this event, we were surprised, to say the very least, that a Solicitor's office would be associated with this event:

Recent county courthouse financial abuses call for greater transparency

This year, two County Clerks of Court have resigned from office following allegations of financial impropriety. In the spring, Beaufort's clerk was removed and charged with embezzlment. Last week, Union County's clerk resigned after child support checks began bouncing, "seeking forgiveness from God for (his) shortcomings".

Last year, the Anderson County Clerk of Court was
arrested for six counts of failure to collect taxes, account for taxes or pay over taxes to a government agency. Berkeley County clerk Mary Brown drug out an audit of her office, which looked into issues which included personal use of office credit cards, for nearly four years. Problems with mismanagement of the Dorchester County Clerk of Court have been discussed here previously as well.

But these kinds of problems are nothing new. In years past, Probate Judges in Darlington and Dorchester Counties were removed from office, accused of spending of money in trust accounts, and a former Clerk of Court in York County was removed in the early 1990s.

As South Carolina's Clerks of Court and Judges of Probate are elected offices, they enjoy considerable autonomy in the administration of considerable amounts of money which are held in court-related bank accounts. While many functions of county governments are under the oversight of both hired or elected executives and elected Council members, there is little that can be done to look over the shoulders of these courthouse officials, until the problems grow the point of criminal investigations and lawsuits.

Most of these officals are honest and hardworking, and there's no reason a few bad apples should be allowed to spoil the bunch. But as the accounts overseen by Clerks of Court and Probate Judges are often related to child support payments to families and financial trust accounts, protecting these funds is important to many families around the state.

Recently, efforts at greater transparency in local and state government have made considerable headway. Perhaps legislators should consider extending the ongoing transparency efforts to providing some outside oversight over these offices as well.