Chester councilman forced to give up seat over pardoned felony conviction

Chester councilman forced to give up seat over pardoned felony conviction
File photo (Source: Hawaii News Now/file)

CHESTER, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - A Chester city councilman has been ordered to forfeit his seat.

Even though William R. King II was elected in 2017, Judge William A. McKinnon ruled Friday that King “was not qualified to be a candidate for city council at the time he was elected and he, therefore, must forfeit his office,” court records show.

King was sued by the nonprofit Chester Citizens for Ethical Government in 2018. He had been found guilty of a felony in 2004 but was pardoned in 2018 -- after the election.

The court order referenced the South Carolina Constitution, which states “no person may be elected to public office in South Carolina if he has been convicted of a felony under state or federal law.”

The judge’s action does not declare the election invalid or effect King’s past votes on Council, the judgment said. It only serves to vacate King from his seat.

THE CASE

King was elected to serve as the city councilman to Ward IV four a four-year term that started May 2017 and would end in May 2021.

However, Chester Citizens for Ethical Government won a temporary injunction against King on Oct. 12, 2018, which prohibited him from serving on the council until a decision was made in the suit, records show.

Court records show that King was found guilty 27 times for fraudulent checks between 1999 and 2004. This crime is classified as forgery less than $10,000, a class F felony under state law.

However, King had been pardoned by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, effective Oct. 3, 2018, records show. But he ran for election in May 2017, before the pardon -- making him a convicted felon at the time.

Despite statements by King that the charges were expunged, there was no evidence that any charges were expunged before the pardon, the judge’s ruling said.

“King’s pardon was not retroactive,” McKinnon wrote in his ruling, “And did not cure the defect in his qualifications to run for office.”

King declined to comment saying his story “speaks for itself.”

HOW DID HE RUN FOR OFFICE?

Karen Roach, director of the Chester County Board of Elections and Registration, said throughout her deposition that the board had not committed any improper action, according to an affidavit.

Roach said King had maintained active voter status since registering in 1982, the affidavit showed.

Being an active voter meant that King “had no felony convictions,” according to the affidavit. Records from the Voter Registration Election Management System showed there “is nothing that would indicate ... to the Board ... that Mr. King cannot be a registered voter or candidate for office.”

Roach said the voter file, candidate forms and the candidate’s oath are the “only resource” the board can “rely on to process a candidate for office,” according to the affidavit. “The Chester County Board of Registration and Election has no role in obtaining or updating information related to criminal convictions.”

There has not been a decision announced on how King’s seat will be filled, according to city of Chester Councilwoman Angela Davis. City officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday morning.