Originally created 09/13/98

Party sues Beasley for access to records



COLUMBIA -- The South Carolina Democratic Party has sued Republican Gov. David Beasley to get access to records of what he has done each day since he took office four years ago.

The suit came nearly three months after the party requested the information under the state's Freedom of Information Act, party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said Saturday.

"What has David Beasley got to hide?" Mr. Harpootlian said. "Why will they not give us a record of what he's been doing for the past four years, on a day-to-day basis?"

Gov. Beasley's office is attempting to comply with the request, but it appears to be politically motivated, gubernatorial spokesman Gary Karr said.

The suit was filed Thursday in Richland County and seeks enforcement of the FOI law, immediate release of the documents and attorneys' fees and other legal costs.

The party requested a record of Gov. Beasley's daily activities June 18, Mr. Harpootlian said.

The Freedom of Information Act requires a response to such requests within 15 days.

The governor's attorney, Hunter Limbaugh, wrote Democratic Party Executive Director Brent Weaver on July 10 saying the governor's office was reviewing the records the Democrats wanted.

Mr. Weaver responded on July 28, saying the delay appeared to violate the law and threatening legal action if the material was not available by July 31.

Mr. Limbaugh then said the governor's office was reviewing "hundreds of thousands of documents" covered by the request, to determine which could be released without violating private, confidential information.

Mr. Harpootlian said the public has a right to know what Mr. Beasley has done with his time, since he's provided with a home, security and transportation.

"We want to know where's he been, has he been playing golf, polo?" Mr. Harpootlian said. "We think what they're going to show is that he hasn't been serious about education, he hasn't been serious about any real issues confronting the people of South Carolina. He's been playing governor."

The Democrats have refused to clarify what they're looking for, Mr. Karr said.

"What they're really interested in is a politically motivated lawsuit," Mr. Karr said.

The Democrats' request covers more than they apparently want, he said.

"We can't turn over people's case numbers and adoption cases and child abuse cases; there's clearly a lot of documents covered in the request," Mr. Karr said.