Out of any other violator in our area, Florence City Councilman Ed Robinson owes the most in fines.
Radical, controversial and defiant are all words that Robinson wears as a badge of honor.
He is the longest-sitting councilman in the history of Florence, now in his 26th year serving as councilman for District Two.
It was in 2007 when he started accruing penalties.
“These errors have taken place over the years, they seem to be reoccurring errors?” WMBF News Reporter Ken Baker asked Councilman Robinson.
“Right, but basically it was reoccurring because there is a process,” Ed Robinson Florence City Councilman said. Robinson admits that he did not follow this process.
“I made a mistake so be it, but then I am also paying for fighting for the people that I represent. Nobody fights for the poor people. Nobody except Ed Robinson, in Florence. For doing that, there is a big price I have to pay other than this little ethics thing,” Robinson said.
Herb Hayden, Executive Director of the South Carolina Ethics Commission said every elected official is required by state law to file an annual Statement of Economic Interest or SEI and periodic Campaign Disclosure reports or a CD.
Hayden added that since 2007, Robinson had failed to file numerous SEI and CD reports.
“It’s nothing I’m running from, nothing I’m objecting to, nothing I’m arguing about. I made a mistake,” Robinson said.
In both 2007 and 2008, Robinson was fined $24,400. The commission said Robinson filed an appeal and it decided that if he paid $5,000 in 60 days, that would be penalty enough. The state said Robinson missed that deadline and reinstated his two fines of $24,400.
“At some point the ethics commission determines that violator has not been in compliance and will turn the debts over to the Department of Revenue at which the Department of Revenue will seek to collect them,” said Rick Reames, Director of South Carolina Department of Revenue.
In 2010, Robinson did not file 19 quarterly Campaign Disclosure reports. Those late fees are costing Robinson $95,000.
In 2011, the state said Robinson was a few days late on the April 15 form submission deadline and got another $100 fine.
In his run for Mayor in 2012, Robinson did not file an initial Campaign Disclosure form and a pre-election form. Those late penalties added up to $10,000.
The South Carolina Ethics Commission says if Robinson can provide paper work from his 2012 mayoral run and prove that he closed a bank account by this coming November, the $95,000 and $10,000 fines will be reduced, but he is stuck paying the $48,800 fine.
So far, $6,821.60 has been paid with help from the SCDOR.
“We use all manner of enforcement techniques. Including offsetting tax refunds and levying on bank accounts and wages,” Reames said.
“It was just little things that I did not do that I should have done. That caused all this, I mean it’s a lesson, a lesson that I have learned, a lesson that has cost me, and a lesson that I am paying for, but it hurts nobody but me. I am the only one that is feeling the pinch from the mistakes that I have made,” Robinson said.
According to the DOR website, fines are given because “those unpaid liabilities can make it difficult for organizations and governmental entities to budget and fund essential public services.”
“People might think…can he be a councilman if he makes mistakes like this?” WMBF News Reporter Ken Baker asked.
“If they don’t want me I am ready to go. It’s as simple as that (ha-ha). I mean who else they got? They ain't got another person in Florence, South Carolina that will stand up before the inequities that we face within Florence, South Carolina. You name me one. Name me one elected official who will stand up and say what is…what truly is. Name me one preacher. Name me one civil rights leader…Ed Robinson is the only one,” Robinson replied.
On November 11, 2015 Robinson heads back to the ethics commission for a hearing, where he can present documents that could lead to him paying a lower fine.
Click the link to view the 2009-085 decision and order of the State Ethics Commission vs. Edward Robinson in PDF format (76 KB)