South Carolina Public Interest Foundation and Edward D. Sloan, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Appellants,
South Carolina Department of Transportation and John V. Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Transportation for Engineering, Respondents
Heard December 9, 2014
Appeal From Richland County. L. Casey Manning, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-213599.
James G. Carpenter and Jennifer J. Miller, both of Carpenter Law Firm, of Greenville, for Appellants.
Beacham O. Brooker, Jr., of Columbia, for Respondents.
[412 S.C. 22] SHORT, J.
South Carolina Public Interest Foundation and Edward D. Sloan, Jr., individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated (collectively, Appellants), filed this declaratory judgment action against South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), and John V. Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Transportation for Engineering at SCDOT. Appellants appeal, arguing the trial court erred in (1) failing to grant Appellants public importance standing, (2) failing to acknowledge taxpayer standing, (3) failing to apply exceptions
to mootness, (4) ruling SCDOT was legitimately assisting a municipality, and (5) failing to find SCDOT used public funds for private purposes. We affirm.
Woodside Plantation (Woodside) is a gated housing development in the City of Aiken. As of July 2011, Woodside had [412 S.C. 23] approximately four thousand residents and was expected to grow to eight thousand residents. The City of Aiken refused to acquire the roads in Woodside unless the gates were removed.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, Woodside Plantation Property Owners' Association, Inc. and the City of Aiken attempted to enlist SCDOT's assistance in inspecting three wooden bridges located in Woodside. Walsh emailed the Chief Engineer for Operations of SCDOT to discuss the issue, stating, " I need to get some bridges reviewed for safety/loading purposes." On August, 18, 2001, the Chief Engineer requested an inspection of the bridges in Woodside. A three-man SCDOT crew inspected the bridges on August 23, 2011. By affidavit, Walsh testified the estimated cost to SCDOT for the inspection was $1,400. Walsh also testified that in ten years, only one other private bridge had been inspected at the request of a local government--on Fripp Island in 2006. Walsh concluded the bridges were in good condition with minor problems. After the inspection, an employee reported improper use of SCDOT employees to SCDOT's Office ...