Ex-County Councilman In SC Was Apparently Living In NC

Oct 6, 2019

BEAUFORT, S.C. — A county council member in South Carolina stayed in his job for months despite living and voting in another state.

The harbor area of Beaufort, South Carolina, is seen in 2013. Beaufort County includes Hilton Head Island.
Credit BOBISTRAVELING/CC-BY-2.0/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Property and voting records show Beaufort County Councilman Gerald "Jerry" Stewart lived in Lewisville, North Carolina, by the end of his term in 2018, according to The Island Packet of Hilton Head.

Property records show Stewart bought the North Carolina home in August 2017 with a mortgage promising it would be his primary residence in 60 days. Other South Carolina records show he sold his Beaufort County home in December 2017 — the same home he listed as his address two months later in a form required by officeholders by the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

Stewart voted in a June 2018 primary in South Carolina, but in the 2018 general election in November in North Carolina, according to voting records.

There's a roughly 300-mile drive between Lewisville, which is near High Point, and South Carolina's Beaufort County, which is south of Charleston.

Stewart refused to comment to the newspaper, but after he was confronted about his residency at a Dec. 10 Beaufort County Council meeting Stewart said he had "numerous ties to the county in the form of having doctors here, legal advisers, investment advisers."

Stewart also said he had a lease for property in the county cut short.

Stewart then recused himself but kept collecting council pay until his term ended at the end of the month, County Council Vice Chairman Paul Sommerville said.

"It was pretty obvious that people were being fast and loose with residency requirements," Sommerville said.

State law requires county council members to be registered to vote and reside in their county or district where they serve. The person who brought Stewart's residency issues to the Beaufort County Council's attention in December said he should have declared ineligible months before.

"If this is indeed true, any vote he casts as a member of Beaufort County Council would seem to be illegal. Maybe this needs to be addressed publicly," former state Rep. Edie Rodgers wrote in an email to council members obtained by the newspaper.

Tags: