RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson and his challenger Bryon Gipson fielded questions from constituents during a forum Monday night hosted by the Richland County Democratic Women's Council.
Johnson, who is seeking his third term, has been embattled in controversy after a citizen watchdog group released thousands of documents detailing alleged questionable spending habits by his staff. Invoices for lavish Christmas parties, exotic trips and alcohol were just a few of the purchases included in the documents.
Gipson, who has served as an attorney and prosecuted cases around the state, said he hopes his work of providing justice in the courtroom will translate into the solicitor's office if elected.
"For that violent crime, those crimes out there, we will prosecute cases and we will zealously prosecute," Gipson said. "But prosecuting does not always mean, or at least being in the solicitor's office does not mean looking at numbers and trying to determine how many people you prosecute. Sometimes you have to look at diversionary programs which in our county have been here over 30 years."
Johnson said his office can take credit for many firsts throughout the county in his seven years in office, including the first veterans court in the state of South Carolina as well as the first juvenile mental health court.
"So we're always trying to improve on a lot of different things. We still have work to do," Johnson said. "Truth be told, what I do, and what my office does is tough because you have victims and often time people have been hurt."
When asked about the allegations of misuse of public money by his office, Johnson said it's one of the things his office needs to "improve" on.
Marguerite Willis, of Florence, SC, was also in attendance and was invited to speak about her campaign for governor.
The next public forum will take place at the Booker T. Washington Cultural Arts Center on Saturday, May 19. The forum is open to the public and will begin at 2 p.m.