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.