Orangeburg County Elections Director Howard Jackson on Sunday took issue with an article that was printed that morning in a Columbia daily newspaper.
His primary objection was that The State printed his Social Security number. “To me, that’s reckless,” Jackson said in a telephone interview with The Times and Democrat. He added that he is “getting some legal advice.”
The article said Jackson “apparently works two other jobs,” including 16 hours a week in Charleston as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and “the 40 hours a week he told the federal government he works at a charity he founded.” Along with the 37.5 hours a week he said he works at his county job, that totals 93.5 hours a week.
Jackson was hired as the elections director for Richland County on May 15. His starting date in Richland County is still being negotiated. Jackson said Sunday that June 14 will be his last day in the Orangeburg County job.
The article said Richland County officials questioned how Jackson could continue working with the Air Force and his charity and still devote 40 to 60 hours a week to the job of straightening out the Richland County elections office, which “last November had one of the most bungled elections in modern state history.”
Jackson said Sunday he has been serving in the military for 23 years. “I make no apologies for that. If serving my country is an issue, they have a bigger problem than me.”
Jackson said he founded HoJack Enterprises as “a non-profit organization to help the underserved population in the area.” Through HoJack, he said, 20 to 30 homes in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties have been rehabbed, egg hunts have been held annually for the past five or six years and a father-son reading program has been launched. Jackson operates HoJack out of his residence.
The State reported that HoJack took in a total of $135,182 in contributions, gifts, grants and government fees and contracts in fiscal year 2011-2012, according to the group’s IRS Form 990, which also said it made $129,032 in payments to unidentified people for “professional fees and other payments to independent contractors. ... It could not be determined from the Form 990 if one of the unidentified people who got professional fees was Jackson.”
“You know how much I received from that? Zero,” Jackson said Sunday. “That money went to the contractors and the folks that actually did the work. No one receives a salary from HoJack Enterprises. Everything is strictly volunteer. If helping the needy and the poor is an issue, someone has bigger problems than Howard Jackson.”
He’s also a licensed real estate salesman with Dorman Realty in Cordova.
Jackson said he makes no apologies for “having other streams of income” besides his county job.
“Folks are fishing for stuff,” Jackson said. “Here I am, serving my country, trying to give back to my community that has given so much to me, and I get criticized for it. Folks have to realize I’ve been with Orangeburg County since 2008 and none of my extracurricular activities have interfered with my job here, and they won’t with (his job in) Richland County either.”
But there is also the question of whether Jackson disclosed enough about his activities when he applied for the Richland County job.
Richland County election officials told The State they knew of Jackson’s Air Force duties, but Jackson did not tell them of his involvement with his charity or his real estate work. Nor did he tell them that he was the subject of a SLED investigation while he was leading the elections office in Orangeburg County. He said he didn’t think it was necessary because no wrongdoing was found.
Jackson said his Orangeburg County job pays him $45,000 a year and he makes $10,800 a year from his Air Force job. In Richland County he will make $75,000 to $85,000; the exact amount is still being negotiated. Orangeburg County has 64,000 voters and 55 polling places. Richland County has 244,721 voters and 124 polling places.
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