Swansea town councilmembers sue their own town, mayor and others over scrutinized audit

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Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2022 at 7:52 PM EDT
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SWANSEA, S.C. (WIS) - Two councilmembers of a small Lexington County town are taking their town and mayor to court.

Councilmembers Mike Luongo and Doris Simmons, represented by lawyer S. Jahue Moore, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Town of Swansea, Mayor Viola McDaniel, Clerk Treasurer Margaret Harvey and town-hired auditor John Brown.

Swansea resident Barrett Black is also joining the councilmembers in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit centers around a highly scrutinized audit completed by Brown. He found inadequate record keeping resulted in no records for $3.3 million of town assets.

Brown did not respond to a request for comment on this story, but in an earlier interview with WIS suggested that figure could represent town property and equipment.

RELATED STORY | Auditor: Explanation of Swansea’s missing records for $3.3M cancelled and never rescheduled

The plaintiffs allege:

  • Brown refuses to answer councilmember questions not provided in writing and in advance about the audit
  • McDaniel has expressed she does not want to investigate the $3.3 million identified in the audit
  • Harvey is not following proper accounting principles

It requests a judge:

  • Require Brown to appear before the council and answer questions
  • Make a determination on who’s responsible for the missing assets
  • Order Harvey to follow proper accounting principles or be removed from her position
  • Order McDaniel to place the issue of the missing assets on the town council agenda

Included in the court filings is a letter written by Moore demanding the issue be placed on Swansea’s agenda.

Attempts to contact McDaniel, Harvey and Brown were unsuccessful on Friday.

Town Attorney Joseph Dickey declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Simmons said the lawsuit isn’t seeking damages, but answers.

“The mayor does not want to go back and check why the money is missing. She doesn’t want to go back, she wants to go forward, let’s forget the past. But $3.3 million is a lot to just ignore and not go back and look,” she said.

Luongo had threatened legal action when the audit gained scrutiny earlier in August.

“This is what it’s resulted in. The town deserves answers,” he said.

The lawsuit is the latest internal clash of Swansea’s town government, which Luongo admitted is divided.

RELATED STORY | ‘We are divided’: Swansea Town Council holds first meeting since Mayor’s suspension

He expressed exasperation at the situation on Friday.

“But it seems like every time we get into these serious matters it always wings up this way. Personally, I’m tired of beating my head on the table,” he said.

Swansea’s finances have come under scrutiny in the past. Former Mayor Jerald Sanders is facing embezzlement and misconduct in office charges.

WIS has no information or evidence that the audit and Sanders’ case is connected.

RELATED STORY | Governor suspends SC mayor indicted on embezzlement, misconduct charges
RELATED STORY | Former Swansea Mayor requests speedy trial

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