Fanning: ‘Good Ole Boys’ over

Some Committee Members Closely Connected to Fairfield

WINNSBORO – S.C. Senator Mike Fanning advertised last February for applicants to fill positions for four part-time Fairfield County magistrates and one full-time chief magistrate, all of whom would be up for reappointment in May. At the same time he advertised for applicants to fill positions for four part-time Chester County magistrates.

To emphasize the fairness of his application process, Fanning posted the following on his Facebook page.

“’The Good ‘Ole Boy System is Over!’ Now, an unbiased committee of out-of-county experts (who do not have established ‘connections’ to folks in our community) will review applications & interview finalists…making recommendations for appointment to this critically important judicial position(s).”

In another notice, Fanning said the selection committee would be comprised of current and former magistrates from outside the county.

Contrary to Fanning’s post, some of those committee members appear to have decidedly ‘established connections’ to Fairfield County and to Fanning, and not all of them were current or former magistrates, according to applicants interviewed by The Voice.

Two applicants for the Fairfield positions said they met with different selection committees and that each committee consisted of three to four members.

Applicant Mattie Stewart Smith, a retired attorney with 36 years of experience, told The Voice that she and at least two other applicants were interviewed on April 5 by four committee members: Chester County Chief Magistrate Angel Underwood, Underwood’s husband (then-Chester County Sheriff) Alex Underwood, a man with the last name of Gore and Fanning.

Other members on selection committees were reported to include employees of the Chester County Sheriff’s office.

Angel Underwood grew up in Fairfield County and graduated from Fairfield Central High School, records show.

Underwood, who was suspended from her duties as Chief Magistrate in May 2015, handled more than 100 cases in which she should have told parties involved that she was married to the county’s sheriff, according to court records. After serving a year’s suspension, Underwood was issued a public reprimand by the S.C. Supreme Court but allowed to return to the bench.

Underwood’s husband, Alex Underwood, another member of a selection committee for Fairfield magistrate applicants, served as Sheriff in Chester County from 2011 until he and two of his deputies were indicted in early May on charges ranging from conspiracy to falsifying evidence, records state.

WBTV in Charlotte reported on Fanning’s appointment of the four new magistrates in Chester County after several viewers had brought up the issue of Fanning’s close ties to the Underwoods. Angel Underwood was the only Chester magistrate reappointed.

On the day the FBI raided the Sheriff’s office in April, Fanning posted on Facebook, urging the community to stand by Alex Underwood. The station pointed out that Fanning posts photos of him and the Underwoods together socially, including at a dinner the weekend before the new magistrates in both Fairfield and Chester were named.