Citizen and rep lock horns at County Council
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
A heated exchange between a citizen and a member of Darlington County Council took place at council’s Aug. 17 meeting, mostly sparked by allegations of disrespectful language used on social media.
Diane DeLucia, representing the Hartsville Pine Acres Civic Association (HPACA), spoke to council regarding her group’s ongoing efforts to clean up “blight” properties, including some on Gibson Street and in the Tyner Mobile Home Park. She asked that some sort of protocol be established where citizens can communicate with county government about these matters. She also noted that HPACA has filed papers of incorporation to become a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit in order to facilitate partnerships with other organizations.
DeLucia then gave council printouts of several Facebook messages exchanged between HPACA member Kristy MacArthur and her elected council representative Mozella “Pennie” Nicholson, an attorney who represents the 6th District (East and South Hartsville) where HPACA operates.
In these messages, it appears that MacArthur requested that Nicholson stop posting pictures of MacArthur and her children online. Nicholson responded that she couldn’t remove the picture in question, and that she simply shared something MacArthur posted.
“Civil Rights Laws protect me from being discriminated against public use of Facebook,” Nicholson’s message read.
Nicholson also wrote the following to MacArthur:
“WE need to know how “your” private FB showed up on mine because you are definitely an insignificant individual in all my social, economic, intellectual, or academic or professional circles. Thank you I’m placing you in prayer. Dr. Mozella “Pennie” Nicholson”
DeLucia told council that she and other members of District 6 now feel they cannot get the representation they need from Nicholson.
“Partly, we caused this issue, because when anyone in the county votes for someone, they get what they get. They voted for that person,” DeLucia said. “But there have been some egregious comments saying that East and South Hartsville are not worthy.”
Council chair Bobby Hudson (District 4, Lamar) and council member Le Flowers (District 5, Swift Creek Area) responded that any citizen with concerns can talk to any council member – not just the one elected by their district – since council members are charged with serving the entire county.
Nicholson claimed no prior knowledge of this complaint and asked why DeLucia had not spoken to her directly about it.
“We’ve tried, but you ignore us and you’re hard to reach,” DeLucia replied. “If you don’t know, that shows how dysfunctional you are in terms of job performance for the people who have voted and pay for you to be here.”
Nicholson held her iPad in the air and claimed that every call she receives is recorded, and she again said DeLucia had never contacted her about this complaint.
“I am not difficult to reach. My phones are recorded by a fed standard state,” Nicholson said. “Each time you call me, I’ve got it on recording.”
When DeLucia gave council printed copies of the Facebook message exchange, Nicholson waved the page and dropped it in front of the council dais.
“This is not an affidavit,” said Nicholson. “An affidavit is supposed to be signed and notarized.”
Nicholson said she plans to bring council copies of all her relevant social media posts, and asserted that she has done nothing wrong and will not apologize. She said the exchange with MacArthur was spurred when Nicholson “went grandma on her, and teaching her online – and I’ve got a record of it – of how she should be raising her child to love everybody.”
DeLucia informed council that several complaints about this exchange have been filed with political parties and state disciplinary authorities. These include the Democratic National Committee, the South Carolina Democratic Party, the South Carolina Republican Party, and the Supreme Court of South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
William Campbell of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel responded in a letter dated July 17 that an investigation will be conducted into the complaint against Mozella Nicholson, Esquire, but noted that it is often “many months” before a final decision is made. Campbell wrote that in cases where attorney misconduct is found, sanctions imposed could range from “confidential letters of caution or admonition” to suspension or disbarment. If no misconduct is found, the complaint can be dismissed.
Audio of the complete meeting:
Read more about Darlington County Council’s Aug. 17 meeting in the next print edition of the News and Press.