Greenville County Authorizes Legal Action in Primary Impasse
Decision comes on heels of SCGOP's announcement that it would fund 'legitimate' expenses related to primary
Greenville County Council joined Spartanburg County on Tuesday in authorizing its county attorney to use legal action if necessary to protect county interests in the matter of funding the 2012 Republican presidential primary.
Greenville and Spartanburg were two of several counties that had expressed concern over how the GOP primary would be funded. The state election commission has some $680,000 in rollover funds from last election cycle at its disposal, while the SCGOP announced it anticipated on generating roughly $300,000 in candidate filing fees - a major concern for counties that feared they would be stuck with the remainder of the tab, should the Jan. 21 primary prove to be as expensive as the $1.5 million estimate.
As council was voting, word had begun to spread to officials like Governmental Affairs Coordinator Bob Mihalic that the SCGOP had agreed to pay for all "legitimate" county expenses related to the primary.
"In light of the recent request from [the South Carolina Association of Registration and Election officials] and some county elections offices for reimbursement of additional expenses, the Republican Party has agreed to pay all legitimate expenses directly related to the conduct of the Republican PPP," said Chris Whitmire, the director of public information South Carolina Election Commission, in an email.
"These expenses would be in addition to the expenses for which the SEC reimburses following other statewide elections."
Yet, the agreement may actually highlight one of counties' main grievances they've had all along in the process -- not having a place at the negotiating table.
After the council meeting, Mihalic said he had just received word of the SCGOP announcement, and that to his knowledge, neither Greenville County nor any other county had any part in carving out the agreement.
Likewise, County Attorney Mark Tollison said he was unaware of the SCGOP's announcement to pay expenses related to the primary.
"All I can say is tonight county council approved joining Spartanburg County in taking whatever necessary legal actions are required to ensure that county costs in the upcoming presidential preference primary election are covered," Tollison said.
According to the State Election Commission, the agreement isn't a blank check for counties in the primary process.
"For example, some overtime pay may be required for county employees to conduct the PPP," Whitmire said. "A reasonable amount of overtime would be an allowable expense. However, since state law sets poll manager pay at $60 per day, any additional poll manager pay normally paid by counties would not be a reimbursable expense."