By Al Dozier
The Richland County elections board Tuesday rejected a petition filed by District 5 School board members to disallow former board member Kim Murphy’s bid to seek reelection.
The board voted 3-1to reject a petition from two members of the Lexington-Richland District 5 school board that seeks to disqualify Murphy because they her residence is in Lexington County, not Richland County.
PoliVoting for Murphy were board members Adell Adams, Sylvia Holley and Pete Kennedy. The only vote against Murphy came from Jane Dreher Emerson. Chairwoman Marjorie Johnson did not cast a vote.
Attorney Mike Montgomery, who represented petitioners Robert Gantt and Ed White, current school board members, said there would likely be an appeal of the ruling to a circuit judge.
Meanwhile, Murphy, considered by supporters to be a watchdog for taxpayers, will continue her campaign to get reelected to a board that had her removed in 2013 because of the residency problem. She is running against Gantt for a seat on the Richland side of Lexington-Richland School board.
Murphy’s lawyer, Jake Moore, repeated the arguments made all along in the previous legal confrontations that Richland County officials continue to validate her as a resident. She pays her property and automobile taxes in Richland County and is identified as a registered voter in the county, despite findings by a circuit judge that she is actually a resident of Lexington County.
The location of Murphy’s home on Laurel Lane in Chapin was once again confirmed as a Lexington County location by state demographers who conducted surveys and researched historical maps of the area. While her property is divided into the two counties, her residence is in Lexington County, they said.
But Moore said Richland and Lexington continue to maintain records and documents that validate her residency.
“What do you do when the lines are unclear?” he asked. “She is in limbo.”
Moore repeatedly raised the questions with state officials of why they haven’t tried to mediate the dispute over county lines with local election officials, a procedure he said is outlined by state law.
Will Roberts with the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, said his agency has been working on procedures to inform some 20,000 to 30,000 voters how to have misplaced residency findings corrected. He said both Lexington and Richland County officials have been notified that there are discrepancies.
But Moore reiterated that nothing has been done to correct the supposedly inaccurate maps now being used in Lexington and Richland counties.
Ed White, who is identified as a petitioner along with Gantt, advised the board all of the issues being raised at Tuesday’s hearings have already been addressed.
“This is very simple,” said White, who is an attorney. “A circuit judge has already made a decision,” he said. “The likelihood is that it will go back again.”
A circuit judge has ruled the Lexington-Richland School District acted appropriately in removing former Murphy from the board in March of 2013 because she didn’t meet residency requirements.
Murphy challenged the removal, but Judge DeAndrea Gist Benjamin ruled October 30 that her removal was valid.
Benjamin stated the board had clear and convincing evidence Murphy is a resident of Lexington County, and therefore did not meet the requirements and lacks the legal capacity to hold the office.
Murphy is appealing that ruling.
At Tuesday’s hearing she said nobody questioned her residency until she started serving on the board, where she was often at odds with the majority.