Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ziegler v. Dorchester County

Supreme Court of South Carolina

May 8, 2019

Gerard E. Ziegler; Brenda Barrington III; James Stephen Greene, Jr.; William A. Harbeson; David Messinger; South Carolina Public Interest Foundation; and Dorchester County Taxpayers Association, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Appellants,
v.
Dorchester County; Dorchester County Council; Charles D. Chinnis, George H. Bailey, Sr., Jay Byars, Willie R. Davis, Carroll S. Duncan, Larry Hargett and William R. Hearn, Jr., in their official capacities as members of Dorchester County Council, Respondents. Appellate Case No. 2018-000395

          Heard October 18, 2018

          Appeal from Dorchester County Edgar W. Dickson, Circuit Court Judge

          W. Andrew Gowder, Jr., of Austen &Gowder, LLC, of Charleston and Michael T. Rose, of Mike Rose Law Firm, PC of Summerville, for Appellants.

          Steve A. Matthews, of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, PA, of Columbia, for Respondents.

          James G. Carpenter, Jr., of Greenville, for Amicus Curiae, Edward D. Sloan, Jr.

          HEARN, JUSTICE

         This case concerns the validity of a referendum question- passed during the 2016 elections-which granted the Dorchester County Council authority to issue up to $30 million in bonds for library facilities and up to $13 million for recreational facilities. Finding there was no indication the voters did not understand it, the circuit court determined it was not improper. Because the question contained two separate bond proposals and required voters to support both or neither, we hold it was unlawful.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On July 18, 2016, the Dorchester County Council passed an ordinance ordering a referendum to be held during the November 8, 2016, elections. The referendum sought to determine whether the county would be authorized to issue no more than $43, 000, 000 in general obligation bonds to construct new library and recreational facilities. The question as written in the ordinance and to be placed on the referendum was:

Shall Dorchester County, South Carolina be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $30, 000, 000 for funding the acquisition of land and the design and construction of new library facilities in Summerville and North Charleston and general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $13, 000, 000 for funding recreational facilities, including the development of the Dorchester County Courthouse Park in St. George, the Ashley River Park and the Pine Trace Natural area in Summerville, and the development of hiking, biking and pedestrian trails, together with associated infrastructure, at various locations throughout the County?

         On September 8, 2016, then-State Senator Paul Thurmond requested an Attorney General's Opinion on the legality of the wording of the Dorchester County bond referendum, as he believed a separate vote was required for each specific different purpose for which bonds are to be issued. On September 30, 2016, the Attorney General's Office issued an opinion agreeing with Senator Thurmond. The opinion concluded that "a court would likely determine neither the Constitution nor the General Assembly intended to give county council the authority to combine multiple separate issues for bond issuance into one referendum question."

         On October 3, 2016, the Appellants-residents of Dorchester County, the Dorchester County Taxpayers Association, and the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation-sent the Attorney General's Opinion to the County. Appellants requested the County correct the question by separating the parks and libraries issues into two different questions to be voted on separately, or cancel the referendum. They also filed a complaint in circuit court seeking: (1) a declaratory judgment that including two questions in one referendum question was unconstitutional, violated South Carolina law and the intent of the General Assembly, violated public policy, and, as a result, the issuance of any bonds and any other action taken based on the results of the referendum would be null and void; (2) a permanent injunction enjoining Dorchester County from conducting the referendum; and (3) costs and attorneys' fees. No hearing was held prior to the election. In fact, no hearing was held until August 24, 2017.

         The question remained on the ballot as written and the referendum was held as scheduled. The referendum passed with just over 60% of the vote. The Appellants did not file an amended complaint after the referendum was held. Respondents-Dorchester County and the individual members of the Dorchester County Council-filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.

         The circuit court granted Respondents' motion. The court determined the issue was the intent of the bond question and whether the voters of Dorchester County understood its results, and concluded there were no factual allegations to suggest they did not. Appellants filed a Rule 59(e) motion, which was denied. Appellants appealed to the court of appeals, but the case was transferred to this Court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.