York County GOP councilwoman faces ethics complaint filed by a political rival

A political opponent of York County Councilwoman Allison Love filed an ethics complaint against the Republican, and the South Carolina State Ethics Commission will hear the case Aug. 15.

The complaint from Andy Litten, who face Love and Jason Amentler for the Dist. 2 council seat in the GOP primary June 11, alleges Love benefited by approving county money to nonprofit Nation Ford Land Trust after she took a seat on its board of directors.

Love denies any personal benefit, and said the complaint is politically motivated. Litten denies the filing was related to their upcoming election and said it was an effort to increase public transparency.

Love, Litten and Amentler will face off for the council seat that represents Lake Wylie and Clover. The winner will run unopposed in the general election Nov. 5.

Love expects to resolve ethics complaints before the summer hearing. Her attorney is working toward a resolution prior to the Columbia hearing, she said. “It’ll be resolved this week,” Love said Tuesday morning.

Litten filed a complaint with the state ethics commission two years ago, citing five instances from December 2019 to July 2021 where Love voted to provide funding for Nation Ford Land Trust. The nonprofit preserves land in York County, largely through property owners who choose to set up easements.

York County, through its own preservation commission York County Forever, often assists with legal or other fees related to land trust work.

The state ethics commission found probable cause that Love benefited by her votes to fund land trust work in Litten’s filing and added four similar instances, for nine ethics complaints, according to the public hearing notice. A hearing is set for Aug. 15 in Columbia.

Allison Love, who represents Lake Wylie and Clover on York County Council, is the subject of an ethics investigation related to county spending for a nonprofit. A hearing will come this summer.
Allison Love, who represents Lake Wylie and Clover on York County Council, is the subject of an ethics investigation related to county spending for a nonprofit. A hearing will come this summer.

How the ethics complaint system works in SC

Anyone who suspects an ethics violation by a public official can file a complaint in South Carolina. The official is notified of the complaint and it is reviewed by the ethics office executive director to determine if violations have been committed.

If there’s evidence of potential wrongdoing, the ethics commission staff investigates.

The complaint doesn’t become public record and a hearing isn’t set until the commission investigates and determines there’s probable cause violations occurred.

If a public official is found to have violated ethics rules, options range from warning or reprimand to disciplinary action, restitution of funds or a civil penalty up to $2,000 for non-criminal offenses, according to the ethics office.

Love’s is one of 71 pending cases listed by the ethics commission.

The county and the land trust

Love hired an attorney to work on this complaint and several others she said Litten has filed over the years. Love didn’t offer a specific number.

“He’s reported me for a lot of things, and this is just one of those things,” Love said. “Anything he can come up with.”

Love contends the county and land trust have a long history of working together — York County Forever is more than 25 years old — and votes to allocate funding were unanimous. They were part of council’s consent agenda, she said, which is a list of items voted on as a group and without discussion at each meeting since they don’t warrant debate.

Love said nothing improper was done.

The public notice of the upcoming ethics hearing states in each of the nine complaints the commission will decide whether Love obtained “an economic interest for a business” she’s associated with related to Nation Ford Land Trust votes.

It doesn’t list any business or specify whether it’s a personal one or the land trust. Love’s board member role with the land trust is voluntary, she said.

“Would never thought that I was doing anything wrong because I never benefited from it,” Love said. “The only benefit was to the county that got some land set aside for preservation.”

The nine votes in question total more than $413,000 in county funding for the land trust.

Litten made the complaint two years ago before he intended to run for the council seat Love holds, he said Tuesday morning. He said the commission found almost as many more votes as he initially sent as proof that the ethics issue isn’t just a political ploy right before an election.

“I just bring it to their attention,” Litten said. “They do all their investigation.”

Love and Litten both say he’s made it part of his campaign, though.

“I’m just going to keep pushing my campaign,” Litten said. “This information coming out just shows that we need a new leader in our district.”