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Dorchester County GOP Officer Denies Chair's Request to See Filings

Dorchester County Republican Chair Carroll Duncan removes Elections Officer Tony Piscatella from office.

Add another voice to those asking to see Republican non-incumbent filings in Dorchester County: the county GOP Chair Carroll Duncan.

After Tony Piscatella, who was appointed by the party as the document custodian, denied Duncan's request Wednesday, she removed him from office and appointed another member of the party's executive committee, Tim Huber, to take his place. Duncan then demanded Piscatella turn over all party documents —including candidate filings — to Huber.

The filings have come under fire recently as rumors swelled into a lawsuit, brought by the Dorchester County Democratic Party against the county and state Republican Party, the county and state Elections Commission, and the chairs and directors of those agencies June 29.

The suit comes on the heels of two S.C. Supreme Court decisions that have said non-incumbent candidates needed to file their Statements of Intention of Candidacy simultaneously with their Statements of Economic Interest — a decision that came after candidate filing had closed. The S.C. GOP and the S.C. Democratic Party sent checklists to county parties not requiring the paper copy needed to have filed correctly.

Piscatella told Patch in June that it was "dumb luck" that he had decided to file all non-incumbent candidates with a paper copy of their SEI, instead of following the state party's checklist. Only one candidate, John Mondo, has been decertified in the wake of the rulings. 

At around 5 p.m. Monday, Duncan sent a letter through her lawyer Todd Kincannon and Dorchester County GOP Elections Officer Tony Piscatella's lawyer Chris Murphy asking to see the filings. On Tuesday, Murphy denied the request.

In her letter to Piscatella, Duncan wrote she was reversing the state party's directive to keep candidate filings confidential and requested Piscatella to digitally scan the documents so she could provide them publicly upon request. 

"I believe the public has a right to see them," Duncan wrote. 

At the end of her letter, she also stated the documents were important to the ongoing lawsuit brought by the Dorchester County Democrats, which names her as one of the defendants. 

Murphy responded Tuesday that pursuant to the party's bylaws Piscatella is the custodian of the documents and that "absent a Court Order directing Mr. Piscatella or my office to turn over the files, they will remain in his custody."

Murphy cited that party records are to be kept from public or media scrutiny, and that Piscatella was appointed to maintain and control these documents. Kincannon disagreed with Murphy's emailed response, saying that candidate filings are not party records but a matter of public record, and adding that any Republican party member should have access to the filings according to the bylaws.

"If Todd Kincannon wants to forward you emails on a case that has ongoing litigation, that's highly improper," Murphy told Patch. "I'm representing a material witness in the case ... Those documents were entrusted to Tony, and they're going to stay with Tony Piscatella until a court order."

Kincannon told Patch that preventing the party chair from viewing the filings is "actively impeding" the S.C. Supreme Court order for county parties to decertify candidates who did not properly file paperwork.

"The Supreme Court has no tolerance for game playing," Kincannon said. "Not being able to have acess to the documents is actively impeding our ability to follow a Supreme Court order."

He said Duncan continued to certify candidates under Piscatella's reassurances that they had filed correctly.

"She asked her filing official, Tony Piscatella, if everyone should be certified and he said, 'yes'," Kincannon said. 

According to correspondance between Duncan and the Dorchester County Board of Elections and Voter Registration, Duncan attested to candidate certification on March 20, May 3, May 4 and June 7. The last three dates were after the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that non-incumbent candidates that did not file their Statements of Intention of Candidacy simultaneously with their Statements of Economic Interest were to be decertified. Nearly 250 candidates were swept off the ballot prior to the June 12 primary.

JustSayin July 12, 2012 at 03:44 PM
If there is nothing to hide, then why are the documents in hiding? if Piscatella did everything right then show the papers and stop the rumors and the Dems in their tracks! Just Sayin
reg July 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Those are public records, too. All the data that goes on them is supposed to be accessible from the State Ethics Commission website, after all. They (or HE, apparently) just don't want anyone to see the dates that are on the original papers.
Martha Washington July 14, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Look deeper. Who does all of this benefit? The incumbents. Piscatella may not be the proper focal point here. He is the distraction. The Board of Elections should not be allowed to change rules in the middle of an election cycle. It has stolen these 250 potential NEW candidates rights to unseat incumbents, many of whom are lifers and should be thrown out for letting things get so bad in SC. A CIVIL RIGHTS CASE should be filed and at least one person is looking into it. If we voted for someone who won and then the loser gets back on the ballot that is a theft of our votes. For the democrats to be the ones to file this, there are two reasaons that I consider possibilities. One, the dems are hoping to find something fishy in the SC/DC GOP. If so, good for them because I want to know also. Two, the SC/DC GOP has friends on the GOP who want incumbents to stay in office and they arranged for the dems to file the suit. If so, then it's more crooked then I already thought it was. The SC/DC GOP needs a shakeup anyway. I plead with individuals to go there and represent your precinct so we can have true representation in our counties and precincts. It is a minor commitment of your time but it takes the power away from a few elite people who dont even come to the meetings yet have influence there. Much like George Soros and other elite globalists who hold the strings to the White House.
Richard Hayes July 14, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Martha, for the Dorchester County Democratic Party it is about the law, and doing the right thing for the citizens of Dorchester County.
Ansel Brown July 14, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I thank the DC Democrat Party for filing this suit. We need elections and the whole process to be as transparant as possible.
reg July 15, 2012 at 12:54 AM
ain't that the truth. The strange thing going on with this that I hope becomes clearer and clearer to people is that the GOP hardly has any real Republicans in office or on party boards. Not in the county, state or national level. They have some politicians, that's for sure - folks who aren't part of any party, but who are only in it for themselves. And the record of our state over the last 15 years - continually slipping, slipping, slipping downward in education, employment, income level - has happened under their majority rule in both houses of the state legislature. The economic principles and programs they keep promoting come from straight from Karl Marx's economic theories, too.

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