Did town receive valid ethics opinion concerning Councilman Donald Brock?

BLYTHEWOOD – Councilman Rich McKenrick stated during the March 27 town council meeting that, “we received some legal advice in the executive session that was an ethics opinion.”


Mayor Bryan Franklin added, “We were advised that Councilman Donald Brock apparently has breached his ethical duty to the Town.”

And the Country Chronicle put it in even stronger terms in a March 30 front page headline that read, “Council receives legal ethics opinion regarding Brock.”

Was it a Legal Ethics Opinion?

In an email exchange between The Voice and S.C. Ethics Commission Executive Director Meghan Walker Dayson earlier this week, Dayson confirmed that only the S.C. Ethics Commission can determine if an elected official has violated the Ethics Act.

Asked if a ‘lawyer’s opinion that an official has violated the Ethics Act’ is the same thing as a ‘legal ethics opinion,’ Dayson responded in an email, “No.”

On Tuesday, April 4, The Voice emailed the Town’s outside attorney David Black, Mayor Bryan Franklin, and Councilmen Eddie Baughman, Sloan Griffin and Rich McKenrick, asking if the Town or the Town’s outside attorney David Black had asked the S.C. Ethics Commission for an opinion on whether Brock had committed an ethics violation. At press time Wednesday afternoon, only Griffin had responded.

“Currently I have not been made aware of any ethical issues pertaining to Councilman Donald Brock. Neither the Mayor, council or the attorneys have contacted me about anything concerning Councilman Brock,” Griffin responded via email Wednesday morning.

Brock told The Voice last week that he had not received a notice from the Ethics Commission that an ethics complaint had currently been filed against him. He produced an email from Dayson confirming that the Commission does not have an open complaint against him.

Town Wants Brock to Pay

In McKenrick’s motion, he called for Attorneys David Black and Shannon Burnett to remedy any breach of conduct by Brock, if any, and to make the Town whole should that be ethically appropriate. 

Franklin clarified that it is council’s “duty to the citizens of Blythewood to recover all funds paid by the Town in relation to this breach.” In previous public comments, Franklin has said he wants Brock to pay the Town’s legal expenses in connection with the MPA legal actions, which include two lawsuits filed by MPA and a counterclaim filed by the town.

McKenrick did not state the alleged ethics violations or what the claim is based on. He also did not say who advised the Town concerning the alleged ethics violation or why the Town’s attorneys chose not to file the ethics complaint with the S. C. Ethics Commission.

According to SECTION 2-17-140 of the Ethics Act, if the State Ethics Commission finds that the complaining party willfully filed a groundless complaint, the finding must be reported to the Attorney General.

“The willful filing of a groundless complaint with the State Ethics Commission is a misdemeanor,” according to the statute. “…and the person filing a complaint, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than one year. In lieu of the criminal penalty provided by this section, a civil penalty of not more than one thousand dollars may be assessed against the complainant upon proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the filing of the complaint was willful and without just cause or with malice.”

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