If Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott were to manage the Columbia Police Department, it would not violate the states constitutional ban on dual office holding, according to an opinion from Attorney General Henry McMaster.
"As understood by this office, the Sheriffs contract would be to provide leadership and management of the Columbia Police Department as a consultant," wrote Charles H. Richardson, a senior assistant attorney general who works for Attorney General Henry McMaster.
"Thus, such management contract would not bestow upon the Sheriff a separate office, but would simply assign additional law enforcement duties to him. Such conclusion is consistent with the long standing opinions of this office."
Columbia officials sent a letter to McMaster asking for his opinion. In the letter, city officials said the Columbia Police Department would continue to exist, but the position of police chief would not be filled. Instead, "the full, complete and entire responsibility for law enforcement within the City would be turned over to and.. .(be) ... performed by the Sheriff."
City Council members have held six public meetings on the issue, with the majority of residents speaking at those meetings opposed to the contract. City Council members have said they plan to make a decision by the end of September.