Gibson, Coleman misstep in filing candidacy reports

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – Discrepancies in two political candidates’ ethics and/or campaign filings are raising questions about campaign compliance in the race for Fairfield County Sheriff.


Prior to being contacted by The Voice on Thursday, May 30, Rick E. Gibson, one of two challengers in the sheriff’s race, had irregularities in his ethics report filings, according to the S.C. Ethics Commission’s online database.

Gibson incorrectly recorded loan data displayed on the Ethics Commission’s online database. He said that was due to a typo.

As of Thursday, May 30, Gibson’s filings reported a personal loan of $361,889 to his campaign. This had raised concerns in the community, with The Voice being contacted regarding the large amount. State law requires candidates to disclose the source of loans originating from a business or lending institution. Gibson’s loan was a personal loan.

After being contacted by The Voice on Thursday, Gibson said the reported $361,889 loan on March 19, 2024, was a typo and should have been recorded as a $3,618.89 loan from himself to cover his filing fee of $3,618.89, which was also made on March 19, 2024.

Gibson filed an amendment on Friday, May 31, 2024, to his Ethics Commission online data that removed the $361,889 loan, adjusting his report to reflect the $3,618.89 personal loan and another personal loan in the amount of $3,000.

According to Section 8-13-1360, candidates must report “the total amount of all loans received during the reporting period and total amount of loans for the year to date.”

In a separate filing, a $5,000 contribution was reported from the church Gibson pastors on Aug. 23, 2023. That contribution is recorded as being returned to the church on Sept. 1, 2023. Gibson said he was notified by the Commission that the amount was over the $1,000 limit for contributions under South Carolina law. According to the IRS website, charities, educational institutions and religious organizations, including churches, are among those tax-exempt organizations restricted from making political contributions.

SCCJA: Coleman Not Qualified

It was made public last month that candidate Wallace Coleman is not qualified to run for the office of Sheriff in Fairfield County, according to a spokesperson with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, as reported in the May 30 issue of The Voice. Nevertheless, Coleman will still be on the ballot in the June 11 primary.

According to South Carolina law, Sec. 23-11-110 (A)(5)(a), a candidate for sheriff must be a Class 1 law enforcement officer.  Coleman is not.

Coleman, 56, filed an affidavit with the Democratic Party stating that he has 14 years of experience as a Class 1 law enforcement officer, certified by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council.

Maj. Florence McCants with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy told The Voice on Tuesday, May 27, 2024, that Coleman is not now and has never been a certified Class 1 law enforcement officer.

She said that Class 1 law enforcement candidates must go through 12 weeks of basic law enforcement training taught by the Criminal Justice Academy.

“He has never attended the Academy or received any Class 1 certification training,” McCants said.

Coleman was a state constable, not a sheriff’s deputy, according to Renée Wunderlich, Director of Public Information for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). That agency regulates constables. They are sworn peace officers who assist law enforcement agencies. Constables receive only 94.5 hours of basic training, which can be completed at a S.C. technical college. 

To file to run for sheriff in South Carolina, state law Sec. 23-11-110 (B)(1)(A) states that, “A person offering his candidacy for the office of sheriff, shall file a sworn affidavit, no later than the close of filing, with the county executive committee of the person’s political party. The county executive committee of any political party with whom a person has filed his affidavit must file a copy of the affidavit with the appropriate county election commission…”

The state political party must approve (certify) sworn affidavits filed by candidates in their jurisdiction for the office of Sheriff.

“Certification of the candidates was received in our office on April 5, 2024, from the Democratic Party,” Director of the Fairfield County Election Commission Jackie Beaver stated in an email to The Voice.

A copy of Coleman’s affidavit is date-stamped that it was received by the Fairfield County Election Commission on April 11, 2024.

According to a story reported by Cynthia Beasley for WIS-TV, Jay Parmley, the executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said, “We did approve Mr. Coleman for the ballot based on his affidavit. If the affidavit is not correct, the party can’t do anything about it now.”

Coleman’s name will still be on the ballot, and any votes for Coleman will still count during this election, according to Beaver.

On Friday, May 31, Coleman returned The Voice’s phone calls and sent a text message stating, in part, “…I am confident that I possess the integrity, leadership qualities, and understanding required to serve as an exemplary Sheriff …”

Gibson and Coleman are running against Fairfield County Sheriff Will Montgomery who is seeking a fourth term. Montgomery has served Fairfield County as Sheriff since 2014 when he was elected to fill the last two years of former Sheriff Herman Young’s term following his retirement.

This story was updated on June 4, 2024, to clarify information regarding candidate filings.

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