LETTER: Questions ethics of probate judge
The current Aiken County Probate Judge stated, as a guest speaker of the Aiken tea party meeting last week, that she voluntarily divested herself of ownership in a wedding chapel business directly across the street from the court house in 1995.
She said that after much soul searching as to the ethical problem she faced, she contacted the S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice for his opinion on her ownership and he advised her that it could be a problem. She says she then, on her own volition, she gave up the very lucrative partnership. See Aiken Standard article from August, 1993 where she earned $130,597 over and above her salary as Aiken County’s Probate Judge, on weddings at the chapel.
Owning this chapel and refusing to conduct weddings in the courthouse would not be a forgivable breach of the public trust for a freshman member of the judiciary let alone one who had been a judge for nearly 10 years before opening the business. Additionally she should have not only divested herself of the business but, in my opinion, she should have been forced to give her portion of the profits back to the county and the state to help defray the costs of operating the probate court.
She should have then opened the court house up to doing weddings as a source of revenue for the county and state. To this day she still does not conduct weddings.
Makes one wonder just how much she really divested herself of the business and how much the county and state could have earned over the last 18 years.