RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Richland County Council finally agreed Tuesday to pay more than $100,000 in bills for the lawyers who cleaned up the county’s November election mess. But not until after some unusual procedural moves, a change of heart by two members and the chairman’s threat to enforce a time limit for Councilman Bill Malinowski as he questioned charges for travel and telephone conversations. The council, which had put off the decision twice before, agreed to pay $72,423.10 for lawyer Steve Hamm to investigate Election Day problems and recommend how to fix them; $9,348.75 for lawyer John Nichols, who represented demoted elections director Lillian McBride; and $17,924.20 for Helen McFadden, who kept the election results from being overturned in court. “Who didn’t have a lawyer?” Councilman Greg Pearce muttered at one point.
Pearce was one of four members who voted against covering the $101,563.30, though others argued the county had entered into contracts with the law firms and would just end up getting sued if they didn’t agree to pay up.
Pearce was joined by Malinowski, Seth Rose and Torrey Rush.
Rose said later McBride should have paid her own legal bills.
“For me, it’s not about analyzing the bills inside and out,” Rose said. “For me, it is the Richland County taxpayer should not pay for someone’s personal attorney.”