Four fire commissioners have been charged with violating the state's open meetings law, the first time a criminal case has has been brought against South Carolina public officials over the 1974 statute, officials said Tuesday.
"There have been civil suits, but not criminal charges," said South Carolina Press Association executive director Bill Rogers.
The case was brought by Jay King, a reporter for the Hometown News weekly newspaper group. King was barred from an unpublicized Holly Springs fire board of commissioners meeting on June 16 during which a chief was fired, said his attorney, John M. Rollins.
Spartanburg County Judge William Womble on Monday found probable cause of the violations. He issued courtesy summonses to four members of the commission and set a hearing for Sept. 21.
Rollins said King attempted to explain to the commissioners that they were violating several provisions of the law by taking a secret vote, by not holding a public meeting, by failing to give proper notice of their meeting and failing to take proper minutes of their meeting.