Solicitor will not prosecute criminal FOIA case

A 6th Circuit Solicitor has pulled the plug on an attempt to prosecute criminal charges for violation of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

Solicitor Doug Barfield Jr. notified Kirby D. Shealy Jr., the judge assigned to hear the case, last week that he would not prosecute the case brought last November against the individual members of the Jenkinsville Water Company Board of Directors by James Denton while he was editor and general manager of The Herald Independent newspaper in Winnsboro.

“I was not consulted prior to the issuance of these courtesy summonses and did not agree to prosecute them at any time during the pendency of this matter,” Barfield said in his statement to Shealy. “Solicitors in our state are not constitutionally or statutorily mandated to prosecute cases in magistrate courts, although we do in two areas, criminal domestic violence and driving under the influence cases, because we receive grant funding to do so. These courtesy summonses were never mine to prosecute. I was asked to voluntarily assume responsibility for the prosecution of these cases. I respectfully decline to do so.”

Courtesy summonses were served against the individual members of the JWC Board (Tangee Brice Jacobs, Tim Roseborough, Joseph McBride, Aquilla O’Neal, Lori Smith and Gregrey D. Ginyard) in November of 2011 after the Board refused to comply with numerous FOIA requests by Denton and Jill Cincotta while both were with The Herald Independent newspaper. The Board’s refusal to comply came after an opinion issued Aug. 8, 2011, from the S.C. Attorney General’s Office confirmed that the JWC Board was a public body and therefore subject to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. Cincotta later provided each Board member with a copy of the S.C. FOIA and indicated to each member where the law applied to the JWC Board.

“While we respect the Solicitor’s decision, we are, naturally, disappointed,” Denton said. “It is somewhat baffling that we have a law on the books, a law written to protect the public from runaway secret governments, which contains within it a provision for criminal prosecution – yet it is no one’s mandate to prosecute it.”