With no evidence, council goes after Brock for ethics violation

BLYTHEWOOD – Mayor Bryan Franklin wants Donald Brock, a town councilman and potential political rival, held accountable for unspecified “ethics violations.”

Franklin did not explain what he meant by “ethics violations.”


Brock told The Voice following the meeting that he has not been notified by the SC Ethics Commission of any pending or current investigations against him.

Nevertheless, the Blythewood Town Council unanimously approved a cryptically worded motion by Councilman Rich McKenrick after spending nearly 90 minutes in executive session with five attorneys who are working on behalf of the Town on MPA-related lawsuits. They are: David Black and Emily Wayne with Nexsen Pruet law firm, Andrew Lindemann and Shannon Burnett, who have their own law offices, and Pete Balthazor, the Town’ attorney.

The Motion

Following an executive session, Councilman Rich McKenrick made a motion.

“The Town of Blythewood Town Council directs its outside counsels … to take all necessary actions to remedy any breach of conduct by Councilman Donald Brock – whether it’s for civil or third-party-complaints, or other actions to make the town whole – should that be ethically appropriate,” McKenrick’s motion stated.

Franklin said he was “saddened to tell the citizens of Blythewood that we were advised that Councilman Donald Brock apparently breached his ethical duty to the Town of Blythewood.”

Franklin did not however, present any evidence of the breach, disclose what the breach entailed, or disclose the source that advised the Town’s attorneys that Brock had allegedly breached his ethical duty.

“Councilmen always have a duty to represent you in all matters,” Franklin commented following the motion, “…so council has the duty to the citizens in that regard to recover all funds paid by the Town in relation to this breach.”

Seeming to clarify the mayor’s “the breach” comment, McKenrick said he wanted to stress what he said earlier.

“What we received in executive session was an ethics opinion, and the motion I just made was asked for by our legal counsel,” McKenrick said. It was not clear, however, whether it was the Town’s lawyers who determined that Brock had “breached his ethical duty” or if they were advised by a third party that Brock committed an ethics violation.

There was no indication that it was the S.C. Ethics Commission that determined Brock had committed an ethics violation.

In an email sent to McKenrick Tuesday morning, The Voice asked two questions: Who advised the Town’s attorneys that Brock might have had an ethics violation? What was the basis for the violation?

At press time Wednesday afternoon, McKenrick had not responded to the email.

The mayor went on to promise he’d “follow this issue closely,” and keep the public informed “so that we may return to celebrating all of Blythewood’s successes.”

The vote to approve was 4-0. Councilman Sloan Griffin was absent. Councilman Brock voted for the motion, despite it being directed at him.

“The allegations that have been made are baseless in nature,” Brock told The Voice. “I did not oppose the motion due to the fact that I welcome any review or investigation into the matter, which will only confirm my position.”

Earlier Ethics Complaint Failed

Monday night’s vote isn’t the first ethics kerfuffle involving Brock.

In March 2022, the S.C. Ethics Commission flatly dismissed an ethics complaint former Mayor Mike Ross filed against Brock, coincidentally involving MPA Strategies.

Ross claimed Brock took actions “to deceive the people and his other council members.” He further claimed “blatant fraud” regarding the MPA contract.

Agency director Meghan L. Walker wrote that the complaint failed to allege sufficient facts that would constitute a violation of the Ethics Reform Act. Walker dismissed the case the day after it was filed.

Brock noted the Ethics Commission’s swift dismissal spoke volumes.

“The fact that it was immediately dismissed only lends itself to the blatant falsehoods within his complaint,” Brock previously told The Voice.

On Monday night, despite not offering any details about the “ethics breaches,” Franklin pledged he’d continue to hold Brock accountable.

Scout Motors and Other Lawsuits

Council members also convened behind closed doors to discuss the Scout economic development deal and also to receive legal advice regarding ongoing litigation with MPA Strategies, the town’s former marketing firm.

In 2021, MPA filed a lawsuit alleging the Town violated the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after the marketing firm requested records relating to the delay of a contract with the Town and other issues.

The Town countersued, alleging fraud, civil conspiracy, and other violations.

MPA also filed a defamation lawsuit in January, 2023, naming Franklin and the Town, along with Camden Media and Country Chronicle editor Tonya Page as co-defendants.

According to that suit, Mayor Franklin falsely stated Brock and MPA’s CEO Ashley Hunter were having an affair to advance the firm’s contract.

Hunter and Brock have denied any affair occurred, according to legal filings.

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