Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday declared a Richland County councilman’s seat vacant due to crimes of “moral turpitude,” one month after he pleaded guilty to tax charges and two weeks after his DUI arrest.
Washington, a Democratic councilman since 2008, pleaded guilty last month to three counts of willful failure to file state income taxes for the past three years. Judge J. Mark Hayes ordered him to three years probation, plus $3,500 in fines and court costs. Washington told the court at the time that he neglected his personal finances while trying to balance his job and his service as a councilman. He is also facing a felony DUI charge from last month and has been absent from the past two council meetings.
The Governor’s Office cited a recent Attorney General’s opinion that it has the authority to declare a seat vacant for any county or state official who was convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude.” The opinion by Solicitor General Robert Cook stated that failure to file could be construed as a crime of moral turpitude, but that courts have previously determined DUI is not. The opinion is not legally binding, but indicates how the AG’s Office believes a court would rule.
Washington’s mother in-law Bernice Scott, who represented the area for 20 years on Richland County Council, filled out the necessary documents to run the seat when the filing period began Wednesday afternoon. Washington took over her seat after her 2008 retirement.
Kimberly Washington filed this report