|Quality Towing, Inc. v. Myrtle Beach, Supreme Court of South Carolina, Opinion No. 25293||Communications||5/21/2001|
A review committee set up by a city manager to evaluate and recommend proposals for a wrecker services contract was a public body and was required to hold public meetings under the Freedom of Information Act. The city council violated FOIA when it failed to announce the specific purpose for which it was going into executive session. The City’s exclusive contract with a towing company to provide wrecker services was a franchise, not a contract, and required that council to pass an ordinance pursuant to statute.
|Sinkler v. County of Charleston, Op. No. 26787, Supreme Court of South Carolina||Land Use Planning||3/15/2010|
The Supreme Court of South Carolina found that an ordinance rezoning property from agricultural to “planned development” under the Local Government Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act was invalid because it failed to satisfy the statutory requirements of the planned development process provided by the Act.
|Tranquil Properties, Inc. v. Dorchester County, Op. No. 4664, Court of Appeals of South Carolina||Utilities and Public Works||3/29/2010|
The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a county could not begin directly billing a corporate property owner for the aggregate sewer service of every tenant in its complex, where the county previously had billed the tenants individually and where the restrictive covenants under which the corporation took title did not include that obligation.
|Aakjer, et al v. City of Myrtle Beach, Opinion No. 26825, Supreme Court of South Carolina||Model Ordinances/Policies, Public Safety||6/8/2010|
Petitioners, who had been cited by the City of Myrtle Beach for violating a motorcycle helmet ordinance, sought a judgment declaring (1) that state law preempted the helmet ordinance, and (2) that a later ordinance repealing the administrative hearing system for motorcycle ordinance infractions caused the motorcycle ordinances to fail. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the helmet ordinance failed under implied field preemption and that it was impliedly repealed by the ordinance repealing the hearing system.
|HHHunt Corporation v. Town of Lexington, S.C. Court of Appeals, Opinion No. 4731||Utilities and Public Works||8/25/2010|
Where Appellants (non-resident property owners) alleged Town had a duty to provide water/sewer service to their property, the Court of Appeals affirmed that Town’s status as designated management agency under the Clean Water Act did not create a duty to provide sewer service. Town’s ordinances also did not create a duty to provide water/sewer service to non-residents. Appellants sufficiently alleged facts showing that Town had a duty to provide services based on an easement. Appellants also sufficiently alleged claims for breach of contract, equal protection, estoppel, mandamus, injunction and declaratory relief.
|City of Greenville v. Bane, Op. No. 26888, Supreme Court of South Carolina||Public Safety||11/8/2010|
The Supreme Court of South Carolina held that the words “humiliate,” “insult” and “scare” in a city ordinance prohibiting certain public disturbances are not sufficiently definite to provide reasonable notice and that the section of the ordinance containing those words was therefore unconstitutional for vagueness.
|David Grigg et al. v. City of Rock Hill||Annexation/Incorporation||12/17/2010|
The circuit court upheld the validity of properly recorded restrictive covenants agreed to between the City of Rock Hill and the developer of a subdivision. The covenants required subsequent property owners in the subdivision to sign an annexation petition in exchange for receiving water and sewer services from the City.
In Travelscape, LLC v. South Carolina Department of Revenue, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the online travel company, Expedia, was required to remit State accommodations tax on the gross proceeds it received from providing hotel reservations in South Carolina. In determining the applicability of the state accommodations tax, the Court focused on whether despite the absence of physical presence in the taxing jurisdiction, the company was "engaged in" or "doing" business within the jurisdiction. The Court concluded that notwithstanding the company’s intermediary status, it was engaged in the business of furnishing accommodations in South Carolina because it (1) entered into contracts with hotels in South Carolina for a discounted rate for reservations, (2) sent employees into the state to negotiate such agreements, and (3) booked reservations in exchange for services to be performed by hotels in the state.
|City of Cayce v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., Opinion No. 26925, Supreme Court of South Carolina||Public Safety||2/7/2011|
The Supreme Court of South Carolina affirmed a determination that the City’s public nuisance ordinance, which brought one of Norfolk’s bridges within the definition of a public nuisance, was preempted by federal law governing the operation and maintenance of railroad bridges.
|Campbell v. Town of Yemassee, Supreme Court of South Carolina, Opinion No. 26938||Annexation/Incorporation||3/7/2011|
Where a town annexed property pursuant to the 100 percent method, private parties that did not own property in the annexed area lacked standing to challenge the annexation. Because the State presumptively owned the marshland in the annexed area, it had standing to challenge the annexation. Its signature was required under the 100 percent method. Because the statute of limitations applicable to annexation challenges had expired before the State sought to intervene, the State’s challenges were properly denied.
|Ahrens v. State of South Carolina, Opinion No. 26966, Supreme Court of South Carolina||Human Resources||5/2/2011|
The Supreme Court denied relief to working retirees who sought relief after the legislature amended the working retirees statute to require the retirees to make retirement contributions without receiving additional service credit. The Court determined that no binding contract existed between the working retirees and the State, and that the State was not estopped from collecting contributions from the working retirees.
Two individuals on the same motorcycle were seriously injured in an auto accident when a traffic light malfunctioned in Inman. The at-fault party had minimal limits of insurance ($50,000), and the couple sued both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety for failure to prevent the accident. They alleged that DOT did not have a preventive maintenance program in place to routinely change the light bulbs in the traffic lights, and alleged DPS had not sent an officer to direct traffic at the light one hour and 27 minutes after a confirmed citizen’s call was made to DPS informing them of the malfunction. The original award for the injured couple was $1,875,000, which was reduced to the statutory maximum of $600,000 by the lower courts set forth in S.C. Code Ann. §15-78-120. In this decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state tort caps but redefined an “occurrence” so as to provide additional relief to the plaintiffs.
Sloan submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Friends of the Hunley, Inc. a non-profit corporation dedicated to the recovery and conservation of the H.L. Hunley Confederate submarine, seeking a list of documents pertaining to Friends’ corporate structure and legal relationship with the Hunley Commission, a state agency. Sloan sued Friends for failure to comply with the FOIA. Friends argued initially that it did not have to release the records, but after suit was filed released the records. The Supreme Court determined that the release of the records meant there was no longer a case on which the court could rule, i.e., the case was moot. But that mootness did not preclude the award of attorney’s fees.
Town of Rockville Design Review Board declined to allow Rockville Haven to construct a dock and walkway for which they had obtained a permit from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control - Office of Coastal Resource Management. The sole question before the court was whether there was evidence that the view across the marsh from the road would be impeded by Rockville Haven’s dock and walkway.
This appeal is the culmination of the Town of James Island’s third attempt to incorporate into its own municipal body. The two previous attempts were invalidated by the Supreme Court in Glaze v. Grooms, 324 S.C. 249, 478 S.E.2d 841 (1996) and Kizer v. Clark, 360 S.C. 86, 600 S.E.2d 529 (2004).
|Cole v. Town of Atlantic Beach Election Commission, Supreme Court of South Carolina||Election Administration||7/7/2011|
This case involves a dispute over the results of a town council election in Atlantic Beach, South Carolina, held on November 3, 2009. Carolyn Cole and Windy Price appeal the circuit court order affirming the Town of Atlantic Beach Municipal Election Commission’s decision to de-certify and order a new election for two Atlantic Beach town councilmember positions. The state Supreme Court reverses the circuit court order and concluded that the original certification of the election, declaring Cole and Price as the winners, should be restored.
|Town of Mt. Pleasant v. Roberts, Supreme Court of South Carolina, Opinion No. 27005||Public Safety||7/11/2011|
The Town of Mt. Pleasant appeals the circuit court’s order reversing Roberts’ municipal court conviction for driving under the influence on the ground the arresting officer’s vehicle was not equipped with a video camera as required in Section 56-5-2953 of the South Carolina Code. The circuit court specifically found that the videotaping requirements of Section 56-5-2953 were mandatory based on the court’s decision in City of Rock Hill v. Suchenski, 374 S.C. 12, 646 S.E.2d 879 (2007). The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision to reverse Roberts’ DUI conviction and dismissed the charge.
In Carolina Chloride, Inc. v. Richland County, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that a member of the public has no legal right to rely solely upon the representations of county personnel and should consult the official record to determine the legal zoning classification of property.
|Anderson v. South Carolina Election Commission||Election Administration||5/2/2012|
This case involves a dispute over the requirements for a candidate’s name to properly appear on a primary election ballet. The Supreme Court held “the unambiguous language and expression of legislative intent of § 8-13-1356(B) and (E) require an individual to file a Statement of Economic Interest at the same time and with the same official with whom a Statement of Intention of Candidacy is filed, and prohibit political party officials from accepting a SIC which is not accompanied by a SEI.” The Court demanded that the names of any non-exempt individuals who did not file with the appropriate political party a SEI simultaneously with a SIC be removed.
|Ford-v.-Beaufort-County-Assessor South Carolina Court of Appeals, Opinion No. 4992||Administration||6/27/2012|
This case involves a dispute over whether the Fords’ residence on Hilton Head Island should be assessed at the 6 percent ratio instead of the 4percent ratio allowed for a legal residence. The Administrative Law Court held “(1) the Fords’ home was ineligible for the 4 percent ratio for 2008 because it was rented for more than 14 days and (2) the sole statutory exception to the general rule that rental property does not qualify for the 4 percent assessment ratio did not apply in this case.” The Court of Appeals agreed with the ALC stating further that “the legislature intended to grant the preferred assessment ratio only to those owner-occupants who limit the use of their legal residences to statutorily defined parameters.”
|Propriety of a full-time Associate Municipal Court judge serving on the City's Grievance Committee||Administration, Municipal Court||9/27/2013|
An Associate Municipal Judge should not serve on the City’s Grievance Committee.
|Farber and Camden Committee for Responsible Government, Inc., v. City of Camden||Finance, Parks, Recreation and Tourism||10/18/2013|
In this action for declaratory judgment, the Circuit Court for the Fifth Judicial Circuit declared the City of Camden’s use of local hospitality tax revenues to construct a recreational facility, which would be operated by the YMCA, lawful where the proposed facility was determined to be “tourism-related.”
|Sloan v. South Carolina Department of Revenue, et al., Opinion No. 27437, Supreme Court of South Carolina||Administration||8/20/2014|
The Supreme Court of South Carolina deemed a public agency’s FOIA response insufficient to satisfy the 15-day final determination period provided in section 30-4-100 of the SC Code of Laws, because the response included language that tends to indicate a final determination regarding the request had not yet been made.
|Donohue v. City of North Augusta, Opinion No. 27530 Supreme Court of South Carolina||Administration||6/17/2015|
Stephen P. Donohue sought to invalidate the City of North Augusta’s
ordinance amending an existing redevelopment plan to include an economic
development project not considered at the time the original plan was adopted.
Donohue contended that the city council’s failure to “redetermine that the
property affected by the amended ordinance meets the criteria set forth in
Section 31-6-80 (A) (7),” and violations of the state’s Freedom of Information
Act required that the ordinance be invalidated. While the Court agreed that
council’s actions violated FOIA, the Court cited the council’s compliance with
procedural requirements as the basis for upholding the ordinance.
|Reed v. Town of Gilbert, AZ||Administration||6/18/2015|
In the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, Good News Community Church filed suit against the town alleging its freedom of speech was violated when the town cited the church for exceeding the time limits for displaying temporary directional signs and for failing to include an event date on the signs. The United States Supreme Court ultimately determined that the church's freedom of speech had been violated because the sign regulations amounted to content-based restrictions of speech that did not withstand strict scrutiny.
In a surprising decision released yesterday, the South Carolina Supreme Court invalidated a county road maintenance fee and a county telecommunications fee. For many years counties and municipalities have determined whether a charge is a valid fee or an invalid tax under the four-part Brown v. Horry County test established by the S.C. Supreme Court in 1992:
Under Brown, a fee is valid as a uniform service charge if (1) the revenue generated is used to the benefit of the payers, even if the general public also benefits; (2) the revenue generated is used only for the specific improvement contemplated; (3) the revenue generated by the fee does not exceed the cost of the improvement; and (4) the fee is uniformly imposed on all the payers.
C.R. Campbell Const. Co. v. City of Charleston, 325 S.C. 235 (1997).
In yesterday's decision, however, the Supreme Court decided that the General Assembly had modified this four-part test by amending S.C. Code Section 6-1-300 in 1997, which now says that a service or user fee is "a charge required to be paid in return for a particular government service or program ... that benefits the payer in some manner different from the members of the general public not paying the fee." The highlighted language is different from the first part of the test quoted above, which requires only that the payer benefit from the fee "even if the general public also benefits."
Under this modified test, the Court invalidated the road maintenance fee because "every driver on any road in Greenville County – whether their vehicles are registered in Greenville County, Spartanburg County, or in some other state – benefits from the fact the [proceeds of the road maintenance fee] are 'specifically allocated for road maintenance.'" Likewise, the Court invalidated the telecommunications fee because the county did not prove that an enhanced telecommunications system would specifically benefit the payers of the fee in a manner different from the general public.
This is a very important and potentially far-reaching decision. Municipalities should promptly review all of their existing fees to determine if they comply with this new, more restrictive interpretation.