GOP Filings Made Public in Dorchester County
Judge ordered for county Republican Party election officer Tony Piscatella to turn in candidate filings Tuesday.
ST. GEORGE — The Dorchester County Clerk of Court received Republican Party non-incumbent candidate filings Tuesday from county GOP election officer Tony Piscatella.
The judge ordered Monday the documents be turned over to the clerk's office and made available to the public. View them on the right of this story.
The filings have come under fire from the Dorchester County Democrats and from within the county Republican Party. There have been allegations that some or all of the non-incumbent candidates — including three who were to continue to the Nov. 6 general election — had not filed in accordance with S.C. election law.
The three candidates affected by the current lawsuit are S.C. House District 97 GOP nominee Ed Carter, S.C. Senate District 38 GOP nominee Sean Bennett and Dorchester County Council candidate Carroll Duncan. Duncan was unopposed in the June 12 primary, and is unopposed in the general election. Bennett beat GOP incumbent Sen. Mike Rose and is unopposed in November. Carter beat GOP rival Jordan Bryngelson and faces Democratic incumbent Rep. Patsy Knight in the general election.
The law, which has been upheld by the S.C. Supreme Court, states candidates must file their Statements of Intention of Candidacy with their Statements of Economic Interest at the same time. However, hundreds of non-incumbent candidates did not follow the law around the state because of a new law requiring them to file their SEIs online with the Ethics Commission.
Questions on the filing procedures of candidates in the county began swirling before the June 12 primary, but instead of being quieted after the election, the questions became a steady roar from inside the county GOP and from the Democrats.
This is the first time the filings have been made available to the public since the controversy began. Being a private organization, the county and state Republican Party are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. A move July 11 by Dorchester County Republican Party Chair Carroll Duncan to make the documents public was denied by Piscatella, party document custodian, and his lawyer Chris Murphy weeks ago.
Along with the filings, three affidavits from Piscatella were submitted, one saying Bennett filed in accordance with the law, and another saying Carter filed in accordance with the law. Piscatella said a female witness was at Bennett's filing and at Carter's filing. It is not known if it is two different women or the same one.
In his third affidavit, Piscatella said on June 13, at Duncan's urging to verify Bennett had his SEI properly filed, he reviewed the filings only to find Bennett's SEI and initial campaign disclosures were missing. Patch reported on this last week when Duncan moved to decertify Bennett.
In the files submitted to the court Tuesday, there is an SEI in the filing for Bennett, but it bears a sticky note saying "Downloaded 6/13/12."
Carter's printed time stamp pre-dates his SIC filing date by three days.
While the case against the county Republicans rests on these filings, the filings are just one part of the story that continues to unravel. More will be known about the documents as the suit moves forward into testimony. The next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 6.
Contrary to the affidavit submitted to the court by Dorchester County Council candidate Roger Goodman, Goodman's SEI is in his filing, bearing the printed time stamp of March 16, which is the day he filed his SIC. He filed at 12:13 p.m., but the SEI was not printed until 12:41 p.m.
Also contrary to another affidavit, Dorchester County Council candidate John Hull's SEI was also present in the file. Hull had testified that while he printed his SEI at the office, he left with the only copy. Hull filed his SIC at 11:23 a.m. March 28, and his SEI bears the time stamp 11:02 a.m. March 28.
According to the files, Duncan printed her SEI at 1:29 p.m. March 28, and her SIC was filed at 1:05 p.m. that same day — consistent with statements she has issued through her lawyer, Todd Kincannon.
There was no printed time stamp on the SEI for S.C. House District 97 candidate Jordan Bryngelson. Dorchester County Sheriff candidate Mike Turner's SEI was printed March 27, the day before he filed with the party.