Blythewood Council’s ‘ethics opinion’ on Brock not issued by SC Ethics Commission

BLYTHEWOOD – After The Voice questioned whether an ethics opinion received by town council from its outside attorneys during a March 27 executive session was a valid ethics opinion, Meghan Walker Dayson, Executive Director of the S.C. Ethics Commission, confirmed in an emailed response to The Voice that “only the Ethics Commission can determine if a person has violated the Ethics Act.”

While the opinion presented by the attorneys implicated Councilman Donald Brock, the alleged violation and the source of the opinion were not disclosed.

On April 4, The Voice sent an email to the Town’s outside attorney David Black asking for the source of the ethics opinion, specifically asking if it was issued by the S.C. Ethics Commission. Black has never responded.

In an April 20, 2023 front page story in the Country Chronicle (“Town’s outside counsel clarifies March 27 ethics opinion”), Black clarified that the Town had not sought an opinion on the alleged ethics violation from the S.C. Ethics Commission.

“…the Town has not involved the South Carolina Ethics Commission at this time” [regarding the opinion] Black said.

Following the March 27 executive session, Mayor Bryan Franklin and Councilman Rich McKenrick publicly and repeatedly implied Brock was the target of the opinion.

McKenrick, in a cryptically worded motion, called for town council to “direct our outside attorneys David Black and Shannon Burnett to take all necessary actions to remedy any breach of conduct by Councilman Donald Brock, if any… to make the Town whole should that be ethically appropriate.”

“We were advised that Councilman Donald Brock apparently has breached his ethical duty to the Town,” Franklin added following approval of McKenrick’s motion.

The Country Chronicle followed up with this March 30 front page headline: “Council receives legal ethics opinion regarding Brock.”

In what appeared to be an effort to further validate the opinion given to council, Black alluded to an “affidavit from an ethics expert witness” in his April 20 comments in the Country Chronicle.

“The Town received an affidavit from an ethics expert witness in regard to the pending litigation matters [involving MPA Strategies]. Many lawsuits receive expert witnesses or expert consulting reports written by legal experts in a subject matter,” Black said.

In answer to The Voice’s question, “Is a lawyer’s opinion that a person has violated the Ethics Act” the same thing as a legal ethics opinion from the S.C. Ethics Commission, the Commission’s Director Meghan Walker Dayson responded via email, “No.”

Ethics violation complaints in South Carolina are not adjudicated in the courts. They’re filed with the S.C. Ethics Commission which then issues opinions on the complaints.

In an email response to The Voice on April 24, Dayson referenced Section 8-13-320 of the Ethics Reform Act, which states that, “the Commission, solely, has both the power and duty to issue opinions interpreting the Ethics Reform Act.”

The Voice obtained an email from Brock that he received from Dayson dated April 3, 2023. In it, she responded to his question as to whether or not the Town had filed an ethics complaint against him.

In her reply, Dayson stated, “We do not have an open complaint against you.”

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