Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
editor's pick alert top story

No action by locals on state ethics fines

LIBRARY money illustration

Several individuals included on the South Carolina State Ethics Commission's Debtors List for failing to pay late filing penalties and enforcement fines have still not contacted the agency regarding their debts, but at least one is continuing to pay down a debt of more than $18,000.

The commission states on its website that the fines are levied as part of the agency's mission to enforce the Ethics Reform Act. The Debtors List (https://ethics.sc.gov/sites/default/files/Documents/Debtors/Debtors%20List%20July%202021%202.pdf) includes public officials, candidates and committees who have failed to pay late filing penalties and enforcement fines.

The majority of individuals listed from The T&D Region were fined for failing to file a statement of economic interests, which involves the annual disclosure of certain personal investments, interests in real property, sources of income, gifts, loans and business positions. All public officials who make governmental decisions that could affect their personal financial interest must disclose an annual statement of economic interest.

UNCOVERED: S.C. politicians blow off ethics fines with few consequences

The Post and Courier of Charleston has launched its Uncovered project to cast light on questionable government conduct, especially in smaller towns. The Charleston paper is working with local newspapers such as The Times and Democrat on Uncovered. Findings are published simultaneously.

Officials included in a recent Aug. 15 report on locals listed on the Debtors List are: Branchville Town Councilman Michael Blankenship, who has not filed for re-election to council; Branchville Town Council Candidate Charles Bamberg; former Branchville Mayor Glenn Miller; Denmark City Councilman Calvin Odom; Bamberg City Councilman Leslie B. Hayes; Elloree Town Councilwoman Kim Gidron; Calhoun County Coroner Donny Porth and Bamberg City Councilwoman Roberta "Bobbi" Bunch.

Meghan Walker, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said in an email on Wednesday that the agency had received communication from none of the above officials, with only Bunch making necessary payments.

Ethics debtor list includes locals; most say system needs to be better

"We have not received communication from the individuals. The only individual who is making payments is Roberta Bunch," Walker said.

The executive director said Bunch's debt of more than $18,000 is being collected by the state Department of Revenue.

"She has paid $1,164 and owes $18,936," Walker said, noting that fines are not reduced or forgiven once a fine has been issued even when debtors, for example, reach a certain amount paid.

Bunch has said she is aware of her fines, which were incurred for failing to file a statement of economic interests. Her default year is listed as 2019.

She has stated that she is working to get the debt paid down, but has criticized the commission, citing a need for improvements in how the debt can be collected more efficiently.

TheTandD.com: Full access for 6 months for just $1

Included in a separate Post and Courier report on Aug. 15 regarding fines owed to the State Ethics Commission was Orangeburg County Coroner Samuetta Marshall, who the newspaper cited as having missed the deadline to file her annual financial disclosure eight times between 2009-19, along with other necessary campaign reports.

The newspaper also reported that during a June hearing, commission investigators testified that they called, emailed and wrote letters to Marshall. One said he reached Marshall just once, over the phone, when she pledged to file the required reports. She eventually did in January.

The newspaper said that while Marshall said in a text message that she hadn't rushed to file a 2016 campaign report because she didn’t raise money for that race, she declined to address her failure to file several years’ worth of ethics disclosures until this year.

The State Ethics Commission handed Marshall a new, $22,600 judgment in July for neglecting her disclosures. If Marshall fails to pay, she will be the next local public official added to the Debtors List.

Walker said in an email on Wednesday that Marshall had not made contact with the commission since the Aug. 15 newspaper report.

"No. She still owes the full amount ($22,600)," Walker said.

The current amount of penalty due may differ from the judgment amount as a result of partial payments or accrual of additional penalty. Since the last update, some may have resolved their debts and may be in the process of being removed from the Debtors List.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD

1
0
4
0
1

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News