JV Water Company sues Neil Robinson

JENKINSVILLE – Jenkinsville Water Company is suing another Fairfield County elected official.

In litigation filed April 27, the JWC accuses County Councilman Neil Robinson of libel, saying he “recruited” citizens to publicly disparage the water company at council meetings.

Robinson

The also names Fairfield County Government as a co-defendant, which the suit states is “vicariously liable” for Robinson’s actions. JWC is requesting a jury trial and is seeking unspecified actual, consequential and punitive damages.

Neither Robinson nor the county had filed a formal response as of press time.

Robinson was unavailable for comment.

Jeff Goodwyn, a Columbia attorney representing the JWC, couldn’t be reached for comment.

In 2020, the JWC filed a similar lawsuit against former Councilwoman Bertha Goins, who frequently criticized the water company, declaring during council meetings that JWC water was tainted.

The Goins suit is still pending. It was restored to the docket last month after having been dismissed in December, 2021, pursuant to Rule 40(j), court records state..

Rule 40(j) allows a party to restore a previously striken case to the docket within one year of dismissal, provided both parties agree in writing, according to the S.C. Rules of Civil Procedure.

Recycling arguments from the Goins suit, the Robinson lawsuit says he and Goins engaged in a “civil conspiracy” to defame the JWC.

“Defendant Robinson actively recruited members of the community that received water services from JWC to make false statements about the quality of JWC’s water at Fairfield County Counsel [sic] meetings,” the lawsuit says. “The above-referenced statements are false, defamatory and impugne [sic] the good reputation Jenkinsville Water Co. has with respect to the quality of its water.”

The lawsuit also accuses Robinson of pushing to consolidate various Fairfield water services, including the JWC.

“Defendants Robinson and Goins engaged in a civil conspiracy with the purpose of injuring Plaintiff’s reputation,” the suit states. “Robinson and Goins wrongfully attempted to recruit members of the community who received water services from JWC to speak at Fairfield County Council meetings to make false statements about JWC in order to further their efforts to injure JWC’s reputation.”

Jay Bender, a media law attorney for the S.C. Press Association, of which The Voice is a member, called the latest JWC suit “foolish” and “frivolous.” He said the First Amendment protects public criticism of public officials, including JWC board members.

“It’s an abuse of the judicial process for a public official to file a lawsuit against a critic of that public official’s performance,” Bender said.

Defending JWC water quality, the Robinson suit relies on the familiar refrain that the water company won water tasting contests in 2017 and 2019.

It was also 2019, that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued a notice of violation against the JWC after finding radioactivity in Jenkinsville water, according to documents previously obtained by The Voice.

At the time, it was the fourth such violation notice in five years.

As for the water tasting contest, the S.C. Rural Water Association that conducted the contest said the JWC was only one of five or six of the state’s 240 members that entered. The organization also said it didn’t independently verify the source of the water sample entered.

The Robinson lawsuit also notes that in January 2020, S.C. Sen. Michael Fanning, D-Great Falls gave “public recognition” to the JWC for its water.

Goodwyn, the attorney representing the JWC, contributed $250 to Fanning’s re-election campaign in 2020, according to the S.C. Ethics Commission’s online database.

Joseph McBride, listed in federal tax records as vice chair of the JWC, also donated to Fanning’s campaign. McBride donated $100 in both 2016 and 2020, ethics records show.

Comments

  1. Jeff schaffer says

    I am almost afraid to voice my feelings about JWC. and It’s Prophet GG IF all you have to do is. have another opinion and usually a righteous one. You get sued by him “Napoleon of Jenkinsville” He rides a silver convertible Mercedes Not a white horse.

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