GOP calls on Georgetown City Council and Mayor to pay Ard's legal bills

Contact: Tom Swatzel 843-222-7456

GEORGETOWN-- The Georgetown County Republican Party on Thursday called on the Democrat Party-controlled Georgetown City Council and Mayor to personally pay the legal bills for small business owner Jeanette Ard, who was forced to sue the city when officials hit her with nearly $800,000 in fines for refusing to install a public restroom in a small ice cream shop she added to her floral business even though the shop was built to city approved building permit specifications.

Last July, after public pressure from the county Republican Party, the city council agreed to waive all of the fines, but Ard was forced to continue the lawsuit because the city still refused to issue a Certificate of Occupancy for her shop.

According to yesterday's Georgetown Times, the city's attorney on Monday offered to settle the case by having the city issue the Certificate of Occupancy for the shop and reaffirm that there would be no fines against Ard. However, the city refused to pay the nearly $13,000 in legal fees that Ard said her attorney had charged her to date.

"The Democrat-controlled city council and mayor are responsible for Ms Ard's legal bills because they knowingly allowed city bureaucrats to levy ridiculous fines and harass her for simply building her shop to city-approved specifications. I think city council and the mayor are morally bound to ensure her legal bills are paid," Georgetown County Republican Party chairman Tom Swatzel said.

"The best thing, that would help protect business owners from such harassment in the future, would be for city council members and the mayor to pay her legal fees out of their own pockets," continued Swatzel.

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 recognized as a historic property by the city architectural review board, which exempts her from some building code requirements.

The county GOP sent a resolution to city council last June that condemned both the city's refusal to grant Ard a Certificate of Occupancy 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."

Ard is a former Democrat candidate for city council.