Tag: Alan Clemmons

Clemmons Lowest Rated of Three Applicants for Horry County Master-in-Equity

It is now two weeks since the Horry County Legislative Delegation cancelled a public meeting to publicly vote on a nomination for Horry County Master-in-Equity.
State law requires such votes to be held in public and the S. C. Supreme Court upheld that requirement in a 1996 decision.
Instead, the Horry County delegation passed a letter (to Gov. Henry McMaster) around for signature, during daily business at the statehouse, to nominate Alan Clemmons as Master-in-Equity for Horry County.
Only three members of the delegation, Reps. Kevin Hardee and William Bailey and Sen. Greg Hembree refused to sign the letter.
And this was done after some behind the scenes moves to have two of the three candidates who originally applied for the job withdraw their candidacy.
Grand Strand Daily has learned that Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, who represents only a very small number of Horry County citizens in his Senate District, called the other two candidates and told them that Clemmons had a majority of the votes from the delegation, that the handwriting was on the wall for Clemmons to win the nomination. Goldfinch, reportedly, told the other two candidates it would be best for them to withdraw from the race to help their chances for nomination for a judgeship in the future.
Grand Strand Daily acquired the reports on each candidate from the S. C. Bar Association Judicial Qualifications Committee. According to those reports, Clemmons was the lowest rated of the three candidates.
Candidates are rated in nine categories. Candidate Charles Jordan received the rating “Qualified” in three of those categories and “Well Qualified” in the other six. Candidate Douglas Zayicek received “Qualified” in four categories and “Well Qualified” in five categories. Clemmons received only “Qualified” in all nine categories.

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Swamp Closes Ranks to Support Clemmons’ Judicial Nomination

The machinations to get Alan Clemmons into the position of Horry County Master-in-Equity have skated along the very edge of state law during the entire process.
It would take a full investigation and the determination of a public prosecutor to decide whether the process actually stepped into the area of illegality, but there are enough questions to warrant such an investigation.
Either way, a study of the timeline of events, as well as the events themselves, demonstrate the way in which those in “the swamp”, (Donald Trump’s term for the political system that he said needed ‘sweeping ethics reform’ in order to “make our government honest once again”), works to advance the ambitions of the members in this group.
Clemmons won the state primary for nomination to his 10th term in office as a state representative for SC House District 107 on June 9, 2020.
On June 20, 2020, the SC Judicial Merit Selection Commission issued a media release announcing it was accepting applications for judicial offices named in the release. Included in that release was the statement, “A vacancy will exist in the office currently held by the Honorable Cynthia Graham Howe, Master in Equity, Horry County. The successor will serve a new term of that office, which will expire December 31, 2027.”
Four days later the JMSC issued a “Media Release Amended” in which the only change was removal of the advertisement for applications for the Horry County Master in Equity position. The chairman of the JMSC for 2020 was Horry County Sen. Luke Rankin.
An inquiry to the JMSC about the elimination of the Horry County position elicited the following email response, “JMSC issued a media release on June 20, 2020 announcing screening for Horry County Master in Equity (Judge Howe’s seat) and the successor to serve a new term to expire December 31, 2027. Since the new term would not begin until January 1, 2022, a subsequent media release was issued, deleting the seat from the 2020 screening.”

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Jay Jordan Another ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ in State Senate Bid

The special Republican Primary for state Senate District 31 next Tuesday presents a classic ‘good ol’ boy’ versus outsider matchup between current House member Jay Jordan and businessman Mike Reichenbach.
It will be a test of how dedicated Republican voters are to see change in the way politics are conducted in South Carolina.
House incumbent Jordan has Starboard Communications, the political consulting firm of Walter Whetsell, running his campaign, which should be a red flag for voters who want change. Whetsell is the consultant for Congressman Tom Rice and is closely tied to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and its Interstate 73 project.
Another interesting fact is how the South Carolina Association for Justice (SCAJ) has provided maximum contributions to the Jordan campaign. SCAJ has its own named political action committee, SCAJ PAC, which gave the maximum to Jordan. Then, there are 10 more associated PACs, Justice PACs 1-10, all of which have the same address as the SCAJ PAC and each of these supposedly individual PACs gave maximum contributions to the Jordan campaign on the same day – December 6, 2021, according to Jordan’s campaign disclosure filings.
Eleven supposedly individual PACs, all with the same address as the South Carolina Association for Justice PAC, appears on the surface to be an attempt by an association of lawyers to circumvent the state’s campaign finance law.
Supposedly independent PACs with the same address have been funded by the Grand Strand Business Alliance, which is funded by the Chamber, to support Chamber candidates in the past. It may be technically legal but it doesn’t pass the smell test.
It should be noted these lawyer PACs provided the same type of support to Horry County Sen. Luke Rankin in his 2020 reelection campaign. That campaign and its internal associations are now the subject of a lawsuit by Rankin opponent John Gallman.

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More on Crawford Dismissal from CCU

One week ago, local media posted stories on events surrounding the dismissal, in November 2019, of Horry County Council member Cam Crawford from his position at Coastal Carolina University.
According to the stories and documents released by CCU, an investigation into Title IX complaints by a female student who also worked under the supervision of Crawford was conducted by the university. Findings from that investigation supported ‘continuous physical contact with student employee supervisees, which included hugging and touching of hand and/or arm,’ and evidence supporting ‘kissing of a student employee’s head’.
Crawford responded to questions from the media claiming the woman misinterpreted his “Southern mannerisms”, that he did not believe he did anything wrong and that there were political motivations behind the media being informed of his dismissal from CCU.
Nevertheless, a female student registered a complaint with the university, the university conducted an investigation and Crawford is no longer employed by CCU.
Crawford’s response brings to mind statements by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo when Cuomo resigned as governor after 11 women came forward claiming Cuomo had sexually harassed them.
Cuomo was quoted in media as stating, “As an Italian, I have always kissed and hugged in a casual way, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone… I accept full responsibility, I slipped, but there are political motivations behind the accusations, and I am sure New Yorkers will understand,”
Strikingly similar statements from two politicians on opposite ends of the political spectrum, except Cuomo took responsibility while Crawford did not.
But the similarities between the two cases end there. Once women began stepping forward with accusations against Cuomo, stories continued in the New York media, Cuomo’s former political allies distanced themselves from him and ultimately Cuomo resigned as governor.
In Horry County, Crawford’s leaving CCU employ remained a secret for two years and there has been virtually no comment from other local politicians.
Freedom of Information requests to CCU from two local newspapers were handled completely differently. According to a story in the Sun News, the newspaper filed a FOIA request with the university in October 2021, requesting documents related to “any disciplinary action taken by Coastal…including notices of termination or suspension, reprimands , etc.” as well as “any complaints or other documents submitted to Coastal by students, staff, professors, administration or the public regarding Mr. Crawford, his employment, his job performance and his conduct/behavior.”

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Crawford Disclosures on CCU Termination Raise Political Concerns

Recent disclosures in a story by MyHorryNews.com about issues surrounding the termination of employment of Horry County Council member Cam Crawford at Coastal Carolina University raise a number of questions about the way of politics in Horry County.
The report stated, according to public documents acquired through Freedom of Information Act request, Crawford was terminated for alleged sexual misconduct with a student who was also an employee of the department in which Crawford worked. This misconduct included unwanted touching and kissing on the head.
The student reportedly reported these incidents to Crawford’s supervisor and the university instituted a Title IX investigation into Crawford’s actions. According to the documents received through FOIA, the report stated the results of the investigation concluded, “the evidence does support a finding that Mr. Crawford violated University policies UNIV-466 Title IX Statement of Non-Discrimination and UNIV-468 Sexual Misconduct Policy.”
Crawford was quoted in an email response to comment by MyHorryNews.com as stating, “Political correctness or standing too close to someone’s safe space should not cost anyone their job, but that’s what happened. My southern mannerisms, friendly gestures, and normal greetings amongst friends were used against me. The cancel culture phenomenon cost me my job.”
Several of the local political hacks, commenting on the story on Facebook, supported Crawford referring to the story as a political hit job.
What is striking about the comments made by Crawford, including a formal statement he requested the university include in his file, is that nowhere was he quoted as expressing regret or an apology for his actions causing discomfort to the student employee involved.
Whatever Crawford did, he made a young student and employee (male or female) under his supervision feel uncomfortable by his actions. The Southern mannerisms Crawford so quickly invoked also include apologizing for causing such discomfort regardless of your original intent.
Crawford owed the victim a public apology, which never came.
Instead, within days of being notified of the investigation, Crawford reportedly had a law firm send a letter to the university requesting secrecy.

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How Thoroughly Will JMSC Screen Alan Clemmons for Master in Equity Position?

Former state Rep. Alan Clemmons will be screened by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission tomorrow to determine whether he merits recommendation from the commission for the Horry County Master in Equity judicial position.
The questions asked of Clemmons will be a litmus test of how serious the JMSC, composed of six state senators and six state representatives, is of recommending qualified candidates to become judges.
There are certainly questions surrounding the Clemmons’ candidacy that should be answered to the satisfaction of both commission members and the general public.
Last year, five weeks after winning the Republican Primary for nomination on the general election ballot for what would have been his tenth term as the representative for House District 107, Clemmons resigned his seat as a representative.
By waiting to resign until after winning the primary, Clemmons was required to submit a sworn affidavit to the S. C. Election Commission explaining he was resigning for “non-political reasons” in order for a new Republican candidate to be determined by a special primary election.
It is important to note here that Clemmons affirmed to the election commission, under penalty of perjury, that his dropping out as the nominated candidate was for “non-political reasons”.
Clemmons’ affidavit cited spending more time with his family and new clients for his law firm who would “require a large investment of my time and focus.”
But, was there another reason?
Horry County Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced around the time of the June 2020 primary that she would retire in July 2021 at the end of her current term in office. State law requires state lawmakers to be out of office for at least one year before they are eligible to be appointed to a judgeship.
According to state law, the burden of proof for justifying “non-political reasons” lies solely with the resigning candidate.

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Graham Allen Campaign Filings Raise Eyebrows but not Profile

Quarterly reports on contributions and expenditures by political campaigns are often seen as guidelines of the viability of a candidate.
Often, too much emphasis is placed on the contribution side of the ledger. Actually, it is the value realized from the expenditure side in raising the profile and message of a candidate that provides a more accurate picture of viability.
For that reason, the recent filing by Graham Allen, the non-resident candidate for the 7th Congressional District Republican nomination, raises some questions.
According to the Allen campaign’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, a total of $646,000 (in round numbers) has been raised in contributions over the last two calendar quarters. Added to this amount is a $92,000 loan which brings total receipts for the campaign to date of $738,000, a seemingly good amount for a first-time candidate.
However, according to the filing, the Allen campaign has spent a total of $435,000 over those same two periods with no appreciable increase in Allen’s name recognition or message among 7th District voters. No tv or radio ads, no mailers, no billboards, nothing!
Having never lived in the 7th District and only a recent resident of South Carolina in the Greenville area, Allen was always going to have a difficult time getting voters to know who he is, much less what he stands for. After the reported expenditure of $435,000 this hasn’t changed.
When Allen first announced his candidacy for the 7th District Congressional seat currently held by Tom Rice, my first thought was Allen doesn’t know anybody in the 7th District and nobody knows him.
It now appears that thought was probably mistaken. It appears possible that Allen has had some type of contact with Alan Clemmons, Horry County’s own master of spending campaign funds while not advancing a campaign.
According to Clemmons’ campaign filings with the S. C. Ethics Commission, he spent approximately $480,000 from his campaign funds during the six election cycles from 2008-2018 inclusive but never had an opponent in either the primary or general elections in those years. Included in the $480,000 of expenditures were payments totaling approximately $150,000 to Heather Ammons Crawford noted as “campaign services” or “contract services” before she was elected to the House.

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Politicians for Sale?

Attempting to keep political decisions free from outside influence has been a problem virtually since the beginning of the American Republic.
During a recent county council meeting, a woman told council members she was involved in a group that was studying campaign donors and votes on projects the donors were involved with in order to see if any council members were apparently giving preferential treatment to their donors.
But the question of influence is not restricted to campaign donations.
SC Code 8-13-700 states:
(A) No public official, public member, or public employee may knowingly use his official office, membership, or employment to obtain an economic interest for himself, a family member, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated.
(B) No public official, public member, or public employee may make, participate in making, or in any way attempt to use his office, membership, or employment to influence a governmental decision in which he, a family member, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated has an economic interest.
A politician who is a principal in a political consulting business that accepts consulting fees from a candidate then endorses or arranges endorsements from other politicians can appear to be using their official office to help the election of a candidate from whom they are accepting fees.
This is the case of Crescent Communications, in which Russell Fry, Heather Crawford and Cam Crawford all participate as campaign consultants. In both 2016 and 2018, Crescent Communications ran the campaigns of local politicians who were later endorsed by one or more of the Crescent Communications crew. Two attorneys I spoke with believe this violates SC Code section 8-13-700 stated above.
Now Fry is running for Congress. Instead of using his associates in Crescent Communications, he has hired Ivory Tusk Consulting, in which fellow SC House member R. J. May is associated. It will be interesting to see what endorsements, if any, Fry obtains in this race and from whom they come.
Influence can be more subtle than money.
As a member of the SC House, Alan Clemmons not only endorsed, but also heavily campaigned for the election of Stephen Goldfinch as senator, the election of Case Brittain as a representative and the reelection of Sen. Luke Rankin.
Clemmons hired Heather Crawford before she was elected to the SC House to do consulting and constituent services for him. Clemmons’ campaign account filings show he paid Crawford $150,000 over the course of five years for these services but failed to replace her when Crawford was elected to be a representative.

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JMSC Responds but Does Not Answer Questions About Horry County Master in Equity Vacancy

Last week GSD published an article about discrepancies in several Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) press releases regarding an upcoming vacancy in the position of Horry County Master in Equity.
The story posed questions about the varying timeline of the time of the vacancy included in those releases.
After the story was published, David Hucks, editor of MyrtleBeachSC.com, sent an email to JMSC staff attorney Erin Crawford and commission members Sen. Luke Rankin and Rep. Todd Rutherford with a link to the GSD story requesting clarification of why the differing timeline was issued by the JMSC.
On Monday, Crawford sent an email response to Hucks. Both emails were shared with GSD.
Explaining why a media release was sent on 6/22/20 advertising for applications to JMSC for the Horry County Master in Equity position but the position was deleted from an amended press release four days, Crawford said, “JMSC issued a media release on June 20, 2020 announcing screening for Horry County Master in Equity (Judge Howe’s seat) and the successor to serve a new term to expire December 31, 2027. Since the new term would not begin until January 1, 2022, a subsequent media release was issued, deleting the seat from the 2020 screening.”
However, both the original media release and the amended media release listed Greenville County Master in Equity Charles B. Simmons, Jr., term ending December 31, 2021, as a position requesting applications for screening. No explanation as to why the Greenville County Master in Equity vacancy would be treated differently by the JMSC than the Horry County Master in Equity position.
According to the appointment message sent to the S. C. Senate by Gov. Nikki Haley on March 5, 2015, Howe was appointed to a six-year term beginning July 31, 2015 and ending July 31, 2021 so the Howe vacancy should have remained open for applications.
Crawford said in her email that the JMSC discovered the error in the date ending Judge Howe’s current term in Spring 2021.
Crawford went on to say in her email, “The media release issued on June 21, 2021, listed the Horry Co. MIE term as expiring June 30, 2027, when most judges end their term, instead of July 31, 2027. Masters in Equity terms are determined by implementation in their individual counties, not the schedule of most statewide judges. Pursuant to SC Code Section 14-11-20, Masters In Equity are appointed by the Governor (with the advice and consent of GA) for a term of 6 years and until their successors are appointed and qualify.”
Crawford failed to address why Judge Howe’s term was discovered by JMSC to end July 31, 2021, but was listed in a June 2021 JMSC media release as ending July 31, 2027. As Crawford stated, Master in Equity judges are appointed for six years and until their successors are appointed. How did Howe’s appointment in office get extended by six years? No Explanation!

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State Records Increase Suspicions About Clemmons Resignation and Judgeship Application

Earlier this week Grand Strand Daily published a story detailing questions about Alan Clemmons and his resignation from the SC House and subsequent application for Horry County Master in Equity appointment.
New information extracted from state government archives increase suspicions about the truth behind the Clemmons resignation subsequent application.
Clemmons won the Republican Primary for House District 107 on June 9, 2020 for nomination to what would have been his 10th consecutive term as a representative.
However, just one month later, at least as early as July 12, 2020, it became public knowledge that Clemmons was seriously considering resigning from his House seat immediately. Five days later, Clemmons notified House Speaker Jay Lucas of his resignation from office and sent an affidavit to the SC Election Commission, withdrawing from the nomination, stating he needed to spend more time with his family and his law firm had recently acquired new clients who would demand considerable time and work.
Clemmons had to swear to the Election Commission his resignation and withdrawal was for “non-political reasons” in order for the state Republican Party to schedule a special primary election to choose a new nominee.
According to the SC Senate Journal of March 5, 2015, Gov. Nikki Haley transmitted to the Senate the reappointment of Cynthia Ward Howe to a new six-year term as Horry County Master in Equity “with the term to commence July 31, 2015, and to expire July 31, 2021.”
On June 22, 2020, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) issued a media release announcing the commission was accepting applications for the Judicial offices listed in the release. Included in that release was the following, “A vacancy will exist in the office currently held by the Honorable Cynthia Graham Howe, Master in Equity, Horry County. The successor will serve a new term of that office, which will expire December 31, 2027.”
(Master in Equity judges are appointed to six-year terms. There was no explanation why a five-month gap existed between the end of Howe’s term and the apparent beginning of a new six-year term on December 31, 2021 to end December 31, 2027.)
Four days later, on June 26, 2020, the JMSC issued a “Media Release Amended” in which the only change was removal of the advertisement for applications for the Horry County Master in Equity position. The chairman of the JMSC for 2020 was Horry County Sen. Luke Rankin.

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