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After audit showed millions misspent by Penny Tax Program, county must reinvest in projects

The terms of a settlement state there was no fraud related to the project, but Richland County must reinvest in the program.
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 11:22 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - An agreement has been reached between Richland County and the South Carolina Department of Revenue on the Transportation Penny Tax Program in Richland County.

County Council approved the terms of a settlement agreement on Wednesday to end the long-running litigation.

“After years of litigation, it is exciting to have a final resolution and be able to focus squarely on doing the work the program is charged with doing: addressing the infrastructure needs in our community,” said Richland County Administrator Leonardo Brown.

The settlement agreement requires no payment by the County to SCDOR. Rather, the County will invest an additional $15.5 million into penny tax program projects. The agreement also states that SCDOR’s audit of the penny tax program did not find any fraud on Richland County’s behalf.

RELATED STORY | DOR final audit reports Richland County misspent over $30 million taxpayer dollars

“For the citizens, our employees and this Council, it was time to put this dispute behind us and focus on delivering the penny tax projects approved by our citizens. We have brought this program in-house, and our employees are doing an excellent job of managing the program in accordance with Department of Revenue guidelines, a fact that is acknowledged in the settlement agreement,” said District 4 Richland County Chair Paul Livingston.

County officials view the settlement as an opportunity for taxpayers to reestablish confidence in the program that voters approved nine years ago to fund infrastructure improvements.

Key points from the settlement agreement state that:

  • SCDOR’s audit contained “no findings of civil or constructive fraud, self-dealing, improper relationship or civil conspiracy on the part of Richland County.”
  • Richland County took “significant steps to ensure that its constituents have confidence” in the penny tax program and “has demonstrated a continuing commitment to fostering and maintaining and open government and being transparent to taxpayers.”
  • Richland County benefited taxpayers by bringing administration of the penny tax program in-house to be run by County staff.

To view the full settlement agreement, visit www.richlandcountysc.gov/transportation.

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