By Al Dozier
Two Swansea Council members are suing their own mayor and clerk.
The legal action was brought by the frustration the council members have repeatedly expressed over the failure of the town to address their concerns about a recent town audit for the 2021 year that found $3.3 million in assets unaccounted for.
Councilman Mike Luongo and Doris Simmons have filed a lawsuit against Mayor Viola McDaniel. Clerk/Treasurer Margaret Harvey, and Auditor John Brown.
In a letter dated Aug. 10, 2022, written by Attorney Jake Moore, Mayor McDaniel was informed that the audit was to have been presented to the town council in April of this year, but the presentation was “stopped for reasons unknown.”
“If $3 million is in fact missing, we believe the town has a duty to get to the bottom of where the money went,” Moore said in the letter. “The citizens of the town are at least entitled to an explanation as to the missing funds.”
Simmons and Luongo have repeatedly asked that the auditor make a presentation to the council explaining the shortfall, but have failed to get the support of the mayor and two other council members to put the matter on the agenda.
Luongo said the audit raises questions that need answers.
“We need to find out what’s missing,” he said.
Luongo said he couldn’t speculate on whether town officials are engaged in something illegal, but questions have to be asked.
The council held a meeting on Aug. 15 to give the second reading to a $1.7 million budget, but Luongo made a motion to delay the second reading until the council could get information from the auditor about the missing money.
That motion passed by a 3 to 2 vote. Though Simmons and Luongo often fail to get the third vote necessary, Councilwoman Linda Butler voted with them.
McDaniel was extremely upset about the vote and immediately called for adjournment, according to Simmons.
In his initial report to the council, CPA John Brown cited several problems with the financial information that he was provided, asserting that it was impossible to provide an accurate audit.
Money problems were also under scrutiny when former Swansea Mayor Jerald Sanders was indicted by a state grand jury in July of last year, accused of taking public money and transferring it to an account that he managed. The Lexington County Grand Jury indicted Sanders on charges of embezzlement of public funds. He was subsequently suspended from office by Gov. Henry McMaster.
That case has not yet gone to trial.