Richland Council Member Delinquent on More than $80K in Taxes, Ethics Fines

December 9, 2015

Investigative Reports

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By RON AIKEN

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Tens of thousands in fines, fees ignored for years

If you were at the Richland County tax sale at the Township Auditorium on Monday, you could have bid on a piece of property recently forfeited by Richland County Councilman Kelvin Washington.

Among the many pieces of property seized by the county in an attempt to recoup failed tax payments was condominium 5C at 320 S. Beltline Boulevard in the Woodland Terrace development.

The delinquent taxes owed on the condo owned by Washington and his sister Marilyn Burnett-Washington weren’t significant – just $572.46, according to Richland County property tax records.

What was significant for Washington was that the property, valued at $15,200 and which he and Burnett-Washington have owned since 2011, is involved in a lawsuit with damages north of $7,000. That lawsuit is still is pending in the Fifth Judicial Circuit between the Woodland Terrace Condominium Association and Kelvin Washington, Burnett-Washington and their business, SYD Investments, a review of court records by The Nerve discovered.

Such adverse judgments aren’t new for Washington, son-in-law of former councilwoman Bernice Scott. Besides being delinquent on his 2014 county property taxes and the pending suit, he still owes fines to the S.C. Ethics Commission dating back to 2009 to the tune of $75,100.

For Washington – who recently was involved in a closed-door push to approve $1 million in salaries to a politically connected consulting group to “coordinate” flood donations and was criticized for flying commercially, by himself, and then staying overnight on a taxpayer-funded trip to Nashville – ignoring fines and the law is apparently part of the cost of doing business as a county council member secure in his seat, if not his finances.

‘CHARGES ARE CURRENTLY UNPAID’

Before the property at 320 S. Beltline was put up for sale by the county, the condominium association was seeking to foreclose on it to recoup $7,094.81 in “principal, late fees, interest and other charges” dating back to 2013, the complaint reads.

It goes on to state that “the Defendants have failed to make consistent payments of the assessments and interest, although demand for payment has been made, and the Plaintiff after giving all required notices, has and does elect to declare the entire balance payable at once.”

“Those charges are currently unpaid.”

Washington was served with the suit at his home on Adam Scott Road in Gadsden on May 1 at 8:12 a.m., according to court papers. When the agent serving the documents asked Washington where he could find Burnett-Washington, the Richland County councilman was uncooperative.

“Resident Kelvin E. Washington stated defendant does not live at address, would not state whereabouts or contact information of defendant,” wrote Mark Weaghington in an affidavit of service filed May 1. “Also would not state relationship if ay he has with defendant.”

Burnett-Washington eventually was served in June at her home in West Columbia, where she has lived since 2005. Attorney Stephanie Trotter, who represents the condominium association, told The Nerve she hopes for a hearing in March or April of 2016.

Where Washington works at the moment is unclear; in a 2014 interview with The State he described himself as self-employed, which he said allowed him more time to be a full-time councilman.

Washington’s residence is listed as 553 Adams Scott Road, a home that a search of Richland County Tax Records shows he purchased from his wife, Valerie Scott-Washington, for $5 in 2010. She inherited the home from her mother, Bernice Scott, who sold it to her in 1990 for $0.

That address is also listed as the official business address for Global Asset Management Solutions LLC, which Washington lists himself as the President and CEO of on his personal Richland County page. A search of the S.C. Secretary of State business filings shows the business as being in good standing with a February 2003 date of incorporation. The business he is being sued with, SYD Investments, lists a business address of 1712 Chimney Swift Lane in West Columbia. It is in good standing with the S.C. Secretary of State and its agent of record is Victor L. Moore Sr., who last owned the residential home at Chimney Swift Lane in 2001, according to Lexington County property records, the same year SYD Investments was incorporated.

Washington has yet to respond to phone or email messages from The Nerve as recently as Tuesday night seeking comment about the delinquent taxes, lawsuit and outstanding ethics fines.

Richland County Council chairperson Torrey Rush was asked for comment Tuesday evening about the same but has not yet responded. John Crangle, executive director of political watchdog group Common Cause, says dangers abound when officials lack accountability to their constituents.

“Just off-hand, anyone would wonder how someone who doesn’t seem able to manage their own finances can manage a budget of about three quarters of a billion dollars,” Crangle said. “I would hope it’s something the voters would take into consideration, especially after trying to get (former Gen.) Abe Turner (of AT Consulting) a million-dollar no-bid contract. That was basically him doing everything he could to commit a million dollars of taxpayer money, and at the same time he’s delinquent in his own payment of taxes.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with Kelvin, but I do know it’s characteristic of some of these hard-time politicians. They live by the deals they make by virtue of their office. They’re trying to make a living off politics.”