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.