GOP blasts Georgetown Democrat Party website's promotion of gay and lesbian "marriage"

Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 222-7456

GEORGETOWN - A day after the Massachusetts legislature voted to repeal the state's 95 year old law preventing out of state gay and lesbian couples from marrying there, the Georgetown County Republican Party today blasted the county Democrat Party for advertising a website that promotes same-sex "marriage," a stand dramatically out of step with voters in a county and state in which 77 percent voted in favor of a 2006 state constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage as only between a man and woman.

County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel said the local Democrats' stand comes at a dangerous time, when despite the passage of the state's Marriage Protection Amendment, traditional marriage in South Carolina remains at legal risk because of developments such as in Massachusetts and California.

Swatzel noted that according to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts legislation will probably be sent to Governor Deval Patrick this week and will take effect 90 days after Patrick signs the measure. One Massachusetts House member told the Globe that "repealing the law would create chaos outside Massachusetts . . . other states will be forced to consider same-sex marriage or resolve disputes among couples who marry in Massachusetts but want benefits, or to divorce, back home." (Click here for Boston Globe article)

Swatzel agrees. "When the Massachusetts repeal takes effect, some time after the November elections, gay and lesbian activists from Columbia will be able to fly to Boston, get 'married,' then fly home to file a lawsuit asking some federal judge to overturn South Carolina's marriage amendment and force us to recognize a same-sex Massachusetts marriage license," he said.

With the issue still unsettled, Swatzel condemned the county Democrat Party's use of its web blog to advertise and link to a web site for a group that advocates gay and lesbian "marriage" rights. (Click here for Georgetown County Democrat blog)

The county Democrat Party's site links to the organization First Freedom First, which says on its website, "Religious-political interests are seeking a Federal Marriage Amendment -- or similar state constitutional amendments -- that would limit marriage only to 'the union of a man and a woman.' This would discriminate against the growing number of faith groups that perform same-sex marriages." (Click here for First Freedom First webpage on same-sex marriage)

"Georgetown County Democrat officials' promotion of so-called gay and lesbian 'marriage' shows just how far out of touch they are with the values shared by the overwhelming majority of families in our county, Democrat and Republican alike," Swatzel said.

"Sadly, however, the local party's promotion of same-sex 'marriage' is consistent with the South Carolina Democrat Party's opposition to the state Marriage Protection Amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2006," Swatzel said.

The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian activist magazine, reported in January regarding the South Carolina Democrat Party's stand on the issue: "One of the brighter spots of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender political work being done in South Carolina has been the community's evolving relationship with the state Democratic Party. . .During their 2006 marriage amendment fight, (gay and lesbian activists) managed to get a resolution included on the state party platform stating that the Democratic Party opposed the marriage amendment." (Click here for The Advocate article)

"Clearly, the moral, legal, and political battle to protect and preserve marriage between one man and one woman in South Carolina is not over, despite 77 percent of Georgetown County and South Carolina voters supporting our state Marriage Protection Amendment," Swatzel said. "As the battle continues, we call on the Georgetown County Democrat Party to stand with the families of our county and stop using their website to promote and legitimize efforts by gay and lesbian activists in Columbia and Boston to radically redefine marriage and undermine traditional family values."

City Council surrenders to pressure and drops $800,000 fine

Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 222-7456

GEORGETOWN-- After public pressure from the Georgetown County Republican Party, the Georgetown City Council on Thursday decided to waive the $800,000 in fines the city had imposed over the last year against Jeanette Ard for refusing to install a public restroom in a small ice cream shop she added to her floral business on Front Street even though the shop was built to city building permit specifications.

According to today's Georgetown Times, City Councilman Jack Scoville offered a resolution at Thursday's city council meeting after an hour long executive session that said in part, "Be it hereby resolved that the City of Georgetown waives any and all possible fines against Jeanette Ard that the City may ever be entitled to in the event the City prevails in the pending lawsuit." The resolution passed unanimously.

Ard was forced to file a lawsuit in September 2007 against the city to prevent the city from changing it's previously issued building permit and alleging gross negligence on the part of city officials in the matter.

Georgetown County Republican Party Tom Swatzel said, "We commend Councilman Scoville and the Democrat-controlled city council for their belated discovery of the concept of common sense. The Georgetown County Republican Party stands ready to assist Jack and the council again in the future when they need someone to identify what common sense is. In the meantime, we are extremely gratified that after the council's newly-enlightened attitude adjustment, Ms. Ard no longer faces the ridiculous threat of being fined nearly a million dollars for the crime of following city officials' instructions."

The county Republican Party sent a resolution to city council on June 30th that condemned both the city's refusal to grant Ard a Certificate of Occupancy for her shop and the huge fines that were mounting at the rate of nearly $2,200 a day. The resolution called on council to "resolve this matter without delay in favor of Ms Ard."

On July 17th, Swatzel sent a letter to Democrat Mayor Lynn Wood Wilson that demanded records under the state Freedom of Information Act of city council meetings in which decisions were made concerning the Ard case, and called on city council to cease any retaliatory actions against Ard because the Republican Party had come to her defense and to "without delay, drop all fines against Ard's business, and to allow her ice cream shop to operate as constructed by the specifications contained within the city issued building permit."

Ard is a former Democrat candidate for city council.

Ard's building permits were issued by the city in February and March of 2007 and did not contain a public restroom. Only when construction was completed in June 2007 did city officials decide to require the restroom, even though the state Department of Health and Environmental Control does not require small ice cream shops to have a public restroom, and Ard's building is on the National Historic Register and is recognized as a historic property by the city architectural review board, which exempts her from some building code requirements.

Georgetown Democrats guilty of state campaign finance law violation

Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 357-1673

GEORGETOWN - The State Ethics Commission has found the Georgetown County Democrat Party guilty of violating state campaign finance disclosure law by failing to publicly report United Steel Workers union officials' ongoing contribution of rent-free office space at a Georgetown union hall that was used as Democrat Party headquarters for years.

In the Ethics Commission ruling issued July 16th the county Democrats admitted to the violation, were required to file amended campaign finance disclosure reports listing the in-kind contributions from the union, and were fined $100.

Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel said, "Georgetown County voters have a right to know just how indebted Democrat Party officials are to union bosses who have a very recent history of deceiving Georgetown County taxpayers and threatening city businesses."

The Ethics Commission investigation confirmed that the union hall owned by the Steel Workers union local 7898, located on Butts Street in Georgetown, was used by the Democrat Party for meetings, office space, and storage, and that "retired" steelworkers actually answered the telephone that was maintained by the Democrats at that location.

According to website archives, the county Democrat Party's website listed the address of the union hall as its headquarters beginning in September 2004. After Swatzel first publicly raised the contribution violation issue in September of last year, the union hall address was dropped from the website.

None of the party's campaign contribution and expenditure forms submitted to the State Ethics Commission through 2007 disclosed any contributions from the union or rent payments to the union.

State campaign laws define contributions as "anything of value made to a candidate or committee to influence an election," and include in-kind contributions or expenditures.

Swatzel said he's not surprised Democrat Party officials would attempt to cover up the extent of their financial dependence on Steel Workers union boss James Sanderson, who in 2001 was featured in a national publication on union corruption for misusing Georgetown County taxpayers' money to promote local Democrats, and in 2003 threatened a boycott of downtown Georgetown businesses if they did not "support" the steel mill and union.

According to the National Legal and Policy Center's Union Corruption Update, Sanderson deceived county officials and taxpayers by gaining a $3,000 county accommodations tax grant, along with contributions from area businesses, to pay for a 2000 Labor Day parade event under the guise of a supposed non-profit charitable group called the "Georgetown County Labor Council."

That group was later found not to be registered as either a non-profit or a charitable organization with the S.C. Secretary of State as required, and the tax monies and private contributions were actually deposited into the Steel Workers union's bank account. The funds were then used for a partisan Labor Day event that featured Democrat Party candidates and officials.

Then state Attorney General Charlie Condon said in a 2001 opinion on the matter that if the "purported nonprofit corporation involved is, in reality, a sham and . . . the public funds ended up in the account of a labor union . . . if these facts are indeed true, such would surely be an expenditure for a private, not a public purpose. If a labor union represented itself as a nonprofit association for the purpose of obtaining public funds, such would clearly be an improper use of public funds."

According to the Georgetown Times, in June of 2003, Sanderson threatened a union boycott of Georgetown City businesses unless they signed a petition supporting "Georgetown Steel and its employees." One downtown business owner called Sanderson's tactics "extortion."

In March, Sanderson's son, Jamie, also a Steel Workers union member, was installed as the chairman of the county Democrat Party.

"From controlling the Democrat Party finances to having the union boss' son as the party chairman, the Steel Workers union takeover of the Georgetown County Democrat Party is now complete," Swatzel said.

Letter to Mayor Wilson

A July 16th Georgetown Times article (click here to view) raised the issue that the Democrat Party-controlled Georgetown City Council may have engaged in an illegal meeting to decide matters concerning Jeanette Ard, the Front Street businesswoman that was denied a certificate of occupancy for a small ice cream shop she added to the rear of her business in 2007, and has been fined over $800,000 to date by the city, even though her shop was built to city building permit specifications.

Only after the construction was completed did city inspectors contend that a restroom was required, a condition with which Ard refused to comply.

The article also raises the ugly issue that city officials may now be retaliating against Ard because the Georgetown County Republican Party publicly came to her defense.

In response the following letter was sent by the county Republican Party to City of Georgetown Mayor Lynn Wood Wilson on July 17th and was printed in its entirety on the editorial page of the July 18th edition of the Georgetown Times:

Dear Mayor Wilson:

In yesterday's edition of the Georgetown Times, an article entitled "Councilman: Politics Sours Possible Deal on Ard Shop," references a June 30th email by City Councilman Jack Scoville in which he wrote this to Jeanette Ard about her ice cream shop issue, "We just about had this thing wrapped up for you, and now Swatzel wants to make it seem the Reps . . ." (Republicans) helped solve the controversy."

Councilman Scoville's comment implies that there were recent decisions made by the city council concerning the Ard matter; however I am not aware of any recent public meetings of the city council in which any decisions concerning this matter were ever publicly voted on. Under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting the city produce the following information:

  • The dates, times, and locations of all meetings of the city council between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2008 in which the Ard case was discussed and votes were taken on the matter by city council.
  • The dates, times, and locations of any meetings, between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2008, that occurred between any individual council members in which the Ard issue was discussed and decisions were made concerning the matter. List the names of any city council members who were in attendance at any such meetings.
  • Copies of all written correspondence, including emails and text messages, between city council members concerning the Ard case, that were transmitted or delivered between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2008.

In addition to the above statement, in the July 4th edition of the Georgetown Times, Councilman Scoville also said this about the issue, "Only Tom (Swatzel) would try to make a political issue out of a toilet. It's unfortunate, because this really undercuts Mrs. Ard's position with City Council much more than it will help it."

Both of Councilman Scoville's statements can only be interpreted as meaning that because the Georgetown County Republican Party dared to publicly come to Ms Ard's defense, the Democrat Party-controlled city council is now going to retaliate against Ms Ard by withdrawing any efforts to resolve the laughably ridiculous $800,000 in fines that have been imposed on her business by the city in the last year.

I find it disgusting that city officials would engage in such petty, mean-spirited behavior in an effort to quell any public debate of Ard's plight. It is an outrageous abuse of power.

The county Republican Party calls upon the city council to immediately cease all retaliatory actions toward Ard and her business.

In the interests of fairness and decency, we again call upon the city council to, without delay, drop all fines against Ard's business, and to allow her ice cream shop to operate as constructed by the specifications contained within the city issued building permit.


Tom Swatzel- Chairman

Kelso campaign out raises incumbent Miller over 2 to 1 in last quarter

Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 222-7456
Jill Kelso (843) 543-0180

GEORGETOWN- Jill Kelso, Republican candidate for state House District 108, announced today that for the quarter that ended on July 10th, she had raised over twice as much in campaign contributions, $45,965, including a candidate loan, than her opponent, incumbent Democrat Vida Miller, who raised $21,075 in the quarter.

Ninety-six percent of Kelso's contributions for the quarter, representing 49 individuals and businesses, came from within Georgetown County, while only 15% of Miller's contributions, amounting to just $3,250 and representing 13 individuals, came from within the county.

Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel says to his knowledge the amount Kelso raised in the last quarter is probably a record for any candidate, Democrat or Republican, for this House seat.

"Jill Kelso is gaining tremendous support from voters who want a change from the extremely liberal tax and spend voting record of Democrat Vida Miller, who from 2004 to 2007 voted with Governor Mark Sanford only eight out of 407 times when he vetoed wasteful pork barrel spending," Swatzel said. "I think the vast majority of voters in this district find that type of liberal voting record unacceptable."

"I am grateful for the outpouring of support for my candidacy and especially proud of the growing number of smaller contributors - 35 of them in the $50 to $200 range. It's that grass roots level of support that demonstrates folks in District 108 are ready for a Representative who will represent their conservative values in Columbia by working for lower taxes and limited government," Kelso said. "At this rate we will very quickly take the overall lead in fund raising."

For the November election cycle Miller and Kelso have raised $73,968 and $51,235 respectively and have on hand at the end of the quarter $60,984 and $40,361 respectively.

Democrats, reign in city bureaucrats

July 9, 2008

The following opinion piece from today's Georgetown Times takes on the Democrat Party controlled Georgetown City Council and Mayor for their role in allowing small business owner Jeanette Ard to be fined nearly $400,000 to date for not installing a public restroom in an addition to her Front Street business, even though the city approved her building permit without the restroom, and regulations do not require one.

Democrats, reign in city bureaucrats

By Tom Swatzel

You're a small business owner in a small city and you decide to invest significant money in an addition to your building that will hopefully increase your business and add some additional employees.

You submit your plans to the city building department, they are approved, and you hire a licensed contractor to build the addition. The city inspects the construction as work progresses and all work is found to be within the specifications of the submitted plans.

Your contractor finally completes all of the work specified within the city-issued building permit and it's now time to get a Certificate of Occupancy from the city so you can actually start using the addition for business.

But there is a problem. City inspectors appear and tell you out of the blue that before you can actually use the addition, a public restroom must be installed at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, even though your city-approved plans don't contain a restroom, no prior inspections had ever mentioned the need for one, and there is no regulation requiring a restroom.

And, by the way, until you install a restroom the city is going to fine you almost $1,100 a day.

How would you feel?

You would feel the outrage and extreme sense of injustice that Colonial Floral Fascinations owner Jeanette Ard has been feeling for the last year, since City of Georgetown building department officials arbitrarily and capriciously decided she had to install a public restroom in an ice cream shop she had added to the rear of her building on Front Street, and fined her nearly $400,000 to date.

And, to add insult to injury, Ard has been forced to hire expensive attorneys to file a lawsuit against the city for gross negligence to protect her interests.

What's really at issue here is not Ard's compliance with all applicable laws; she's clearly done that. It's unelected city building officials attempting to make law and a Democrat Party-controlled city council and mayor that, as far as taking responsibility for the city's actions in this ridiculous and outrageous case, apparently exist in name only.

The city council and mayor have refused to exhibit any decency or fairness in helping Ard by simply reining in the city bureaucrats and telling them to issue her a Certificate of Occupancy and to drop the outrageous fines.

The actions of the city have harmed Ard, but they also send a very strong antibusiness message to businesses that may locate or want to expand in Georgetown. This will harm the city's ability to attract businesses and jobs.

Because five of the six city council members and the mayor are members of the county Democrat Party, I asked my counterpart, Democrat Party Chairman Jamie Sanderson, to use his influence with council and the mayor to resolve this issue in favor of Ard, under the assumption that the county Democrat Party would stand with the Republican Party in bipartisan support of economic development and job creation, and fairness for Ard, herself a past Democratic city council candidate.

To my disappointment, Sanderson and his party refused to help Ard and job creation, stating that Ard's problem "is not a political issue, but rather a legal matter," and that she needed to let the courts decide the issue -- a response I'm sure lawyers will love.

If you're a property owner in the City of Georgetown, you should be very concerned about Ard's plight because until the city bureaucracy is reined in by a politically elected council and mayor, you'll be at risk, the next time you build a home, shop or office, to be subjected to a completely arbitrary city requirement and the threat of fines so outrageous that they make Georgetown city government look absolutely foolish.

At this point, I suggest the Democrat city council and mayor simply resign because it appears they have, for all practical purposes, delegated all of their policy making authority to the city's bureaucrats.

I don't even think city residents would know they are gone.

Mr. Swatzel is chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party