At center of new SC law, Clearwater official resists pressure

COLUMBIA -- Christy Coleman will not be swayed.
Nor intimidated by a $50-per-day fine. Nor cowed by any lawsuit. Nor deterred by the good chance controversy will continue regarding her service as both elected commissioner and bookkeeper for the Clearwater Water & Sewer district.
The way she sees it, the new prohibition against dual roles does not apply to her, since her election to the commission in November took place before Gov. Nikki Haley signed Rep. Roland Smith’s bill, H. 3625, into law this month.
“I will not be bullied into anything because it does not suit the general consensus of the local politicians and their cronies, no matter who they might be,” said Coleman in an email.
“In 2016 when my term is up, I will respectfully abide by the law Gov. Haley passed,” she added, noting that she has promised in writing to abstain from voting on matters that affect her position as district clerk.
It is not immediately clear whether Coleman may stay or go as commissioner for the western Aiken County district. Smith, the Warrenville Republican who has driven the effort to dislodge Coleman, citing the potential for conflicts of interest, says she must immediately choose one position to vacate.
Robert Croom, director of legal and legislative affairs for the S.C. Association of Counties, said the new law suggests the General Assembly intended for the change to affect sitting officials. He pointed to the $50-per-day civil penalty spelled out in the new law and contrasted it with criminal penalties, which may not be retroactive.

Ed Schafer, Legislative Counsel for the Municipal Association of S.C., said some new laws specifically take out retroactivity, while Smith’s law does not.

“If she persists in the position, it could mean somebody bringing suit and making a determination from there,” he said.

Coleman has argued that Smith targeted her out of personal animosity stemming from an out-of-wedlock birth that links her family with his. Smith, a pastor, has denied her charge.

The lawmaker’s original effort to take on Coleman’s concurrent positions, H.3321, had been limited to the local community. The governor had vetoed it, pointing to a conflict with the state constitution's Home Rule provision.



Reach Sarita Chourey at sarita.chourey@morris.com or (803) 727-4257

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