Full Council Must Hold Public Vote on Future Expenditures for Individual District Infrastructure Purposes
On February 8, 2010, Circuit Judge John C. Few signed a court order ruling that the Greenville County “Council District Expense Fund” violates the prohibition against delegating legislative authority in South Carolina Law, and that the “Council District Expense Fund” portion of the 2006-2007 budget for Greenville County is declared to be illegal.”
The Court found that individual members of Greenville County Council were allowed “absolute, unregulated, and undefined discretion to make policy-based spending decisions that are legally required to be made by the Council as a whole.” Failure to have a public Council vote on each district expenditure of funds was found to be “an impermissible delegation of legislative authority, and thus to be illegal.”
The complaint was filed by E. D. Sloan, Jr., chairman of the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation in 2006. Since the appropriation for 2006-2007 has expired, Sloan says the court order has no effect other than as a precedent. The action by Council to conform to the law and the court ruling will be procedural.
County Council will likely change procedures so that each expenditure that benefits only one district is approved by the full Council during an open public meeting. Previously, each Council member was allocated a given number of dollars to spend for travel, administrative costs and infrastructure expenditures in their district in conformance with Council rules. All records of the transactions were available for public review.
In his complaint, Sloan referred to the District Expense Fund as a “slush fund.”
Councilman Jim Burns is the only current Council member in favor of eliminating the district allocations. Ironically his opposition began after he received negative publicity for using his district’s funds for a trip to Scandinavia with a Chamber of Commerce group.