Hearing scheduled for Latta mayoral election dispute

Pee Dee
Latta town council_ Town shouldn't be footing mayor's health insurance bill (Image 1)_52852

LATTA, S.C. (WBTW) — A hearing is scheduled for Friday regarding a disputed Latta election.

A temporary injunction has prevented the race’s winner, Robbie Coward, from becoming mayor. However, Coward has responded in legal documents that he had no plans to be sworn in earlier this month.

“I do not know why this injunction was filed,” the court documents read. “From my discussion with town leaders, I do not believe they understand why it was filed as well nor do I believe it was done at their direction through the proper channels.”

An emergency meeting held Monday night discussed the lack of a new mayor after a housing dispute led to a court injunction that overturned the results of the November election. In the meantime, the previous mayor is holding the position.

The injunction was issued following questions about whether the winner, Robbie Coward, lives in Latta or Dillon. Latta’s Municipal Election Commission found that he lived in Dillon, but Coward’s attorneys have said in an appeal that he met all the residency requirements to run, and that his own vote was counted in the election without any issues.

In a legal response, Coward said that after the election was protested and appealed, he approached the town clerk, Rebecca Page, about the swearing-in ceremony.

“I made no demands to be sworn in and after talking with my attorney I was informed that all election matters, including the swearing-in ceremony, are postponed until the resolution of the appeal,” Coward said in court documents.

He said he didn’t expect to be sworn in on Jan. 1 or Jan. 2, and didn’t make plans to be.

An email included in the documents disputes that, and claims that Coward “very openly stated to numerous persons that he will be sworn in on January 1, 2022 by a notary public,” and that he called Page and told her to order him a name plate and give him the council’s meeting schedule. The email, signed by Janet Paschal, the town’s attorney, was sent to Coward’s attorney alerting them she’d file for a temporary restraining order to prevent Coward from taking power as mayor.

In court documents, Coward said he thinks the injunction was deliberately filed to make it look like he intended to become mayor, and that it was filed shortly after he talked to Page. He said he and his lawyers didn’t have the chance to respond to the motion before it was filed and executed by a judge.

“Had the parties properly communicated their concerns to my leaders and I, they would have known this injunction is absolutely unnecessary,” the affidavit documents read.

A return motion calls the injunction “wholly unnecessary,” citing state statute that forbids Coward from becoming mayor while the dispute is ongoing.

“This injunction should not have been granted,” the return motion states. “There was no admissible evidence of an irreparable harm because the harm was impossible to commit. The party seeking the injunction would have had to harm themselves.”

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Darlington County Courthouse. Count on News13 for updates.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

What People Are Reading on wbtw.com