Restraining order ruled for Philpott

COLUMBIA – An ongoing dispute over Richland Two ethics filings has escalated with Amelia McKie, the district’s former school board chair, obtaining a restraining order against Columbia blogger Gus Philpott, who’s written several articles about her.

Filed Jan. 19, the order prohibits Philpott from having any contact with McKie for one year from the date of the order. She can petition to have the no contact order extended once it expires.

The order restrains Philpott from writing about McKie on his blog, said Richland County Magistrate Benjamin Byrd, who presided at the Jan. 19 hearing.

“If it pertains to Ms. McKie, you are not allowed to do it sir,” Byrd said to Philpott.

Additionally, Philpott must remain at least 1,000 yards from McKie’s home, school, workplace or house of worship. He’s barred from communicating or attempting to communicate with McKie, according to the order.

Violating the order would result in a penalty of 30 days in prison and/or a $500 fine, the document states.

At the hearing, McKie said she’s concerned for her safety and the safety of her family. McKie noted she’s no longer a public official, but said Philpott remains obsessed with her.

“Anyone who pays this amount of attention to one person is in a demented state of mind,” McKie testified. “There’s no way you could be obsessed with one person and be considered not demented.”

Philpott flatly denied assertions that he’s obsessed or demented. He said he covers McKie extensively in his blog because she still owes over $50,000 in ethics fines stemming from various campaign finance violations.

“What I write about are things that are of interest to the public on my blog as a constitutionally protected venture,” Philpott said. “As long as I don’t lie, as long as I don’t defame, I can write about that. If she would pay her fines, there’d never be [another] word on my blog about it.”

Philpott has previously called for McKie to resign from the school board since she took the oath of office without properly filing Statements of Economic Interest (SEI) forms.

McKie objected to Philpott raising the ethics issue, saying his assertion that she was an “illegal board member” was his opinion.

In 2012, an S.C. Supreme Court ruling kicked over 250 candidates off the ballot for failing to properly file SEI forms.

School board members who take the oath of office without filing an SEI are in clear violation of state law, according to a recent S.C. Attorney General opinion.

Non-compliant board members can be removed, but only after a civil court ruling or if the S.C. Ethics Commission were to file civil and/or criminal charges, the attorney general opinion states.

In support of her restraining order request, McKie stated in court records that Philpott overstepped on many occasions. She said Philpot sometimes followed her and that she often saw him driving past her house, but she did not offer any photos, videos or other evidence of him doing so.

She also included a photo of Philpott wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat commonly worn by supporters of former president Donald J. Trump.

“Mr. Philpott is a dangerous, demented individual, with nothing but time on his hands,” McKie wrote in the documents. “I am the target of his disdain and venom, hence my concern for my safety.”

McKie testified Philpott’s social media activity in conjunction with him publishing her street address and his calls for the general public to photograph her prompted her to seek the restraining order.

“People who are obsessed do things that are not logical or they spur others to do things,” she said. “I’m a pretty tough cookie. I don’t rattle easily. I am concerned about the escalating nature of his writings, his musings.”

Philpott responded that McKie merely disapproves of him writing about her conduct relating to her time as a public official.

As for the photography comment, Philpott said he sought photographic evidence that McKie was not sick after she requested to postpone a recent ethics hearing due to illness.

“I believe harassment does not occur when a blogger publishes information that is truthful. The information that I have published is honest, factual, truthful, [and] non inflammatory,” Philpott said. “I believe Mrs. McKie is mad and that’s why we’re here today.”


  1. Calvin Kennedy says

    Restraining Order VERY Unjust! I personally know Mr. Philpott & know that he is definitely an advocate of justice & absolutely will stir the pot anytime he sees corruption or mishandling of any nature when it involves public or private office having a negative impact on the public. Might make him a pain, but if he steps up to the plate to point out the wrongs, is he right??? Mr. Philpott has NEVER shown any signs of physical force in any of his ventures & has ALWAYS followed the law in all of his public actions. If all of the allegations Mr. Philpott made were factual & true, what law did he break? Has our society come to a point where people can’t speak their minds when telling the truth??? As for the “Make America Great Again” hat goes, if that makes him demented, the judge has 74,223,369 more restraining orders to write for all those who voted that way! As for the photograph, what about the one on here for the world to see??? If there was any overstepping boundaries, I’d have to say it is the restraining order that was issued with no proof to back the complaint!

  2. Byrd’s ruling doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Using McKie’s logic, and the apparent lack of judgement by Judge Byrd, if I understand their position correctly, any political candidate who has not yet been elected, or any person that is suspected of violating any laws while in office, can seek restraining orders to suppress accurate public information that is unflattering simply because they don’t like the content of the information? And, as a candidate not yet elected, or no longer serving as a public office holder they are therefore a “private citizen” and their conduct while in office can no longer be reported on. Claiming she feels threatened by him for his alleged “obsessive” behavior, of which she has absolutely no proof, is an unfounded excuse that Byrd should have immediately disallowed in her filing. He faces 30 days in prison and fines because her claim of harassment includes her “opinion” that he’s demented is proven by the fact he wears a MAGA hat? She included “fear” for her family members in the filing? Has Philpott ever written about, approached or threatened her family members? What exactly prompted the judge to accept that claim? This is a complete joke! I hope Philpott continues to report on her alleged state election law violations while she was a public office holder, as defined by the 2012 SC Attorney General’s Office ruling. I think it would have been more prudent for Judge Byrd to wait until McKie’s ethics hearing is over before he grants such an asinine request. Of course, that would have to involve her actually being present for the hearing, that she always seemingly has an excuse for not appearing at.

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