Longtime Aiken County Probate Judge Sue Roe has admitted she broke an ethics law and has received a warning and a $100 fine from the State Ethics Commission.
Roe, who described the violation as an “embarrassment,” admitted breaking the Ethics Reform Act when she “unintentionally” used the address and telephone number of the Aiken County Probate Judge's office on a campaign flyer posted on her re-election website. The act states that no elected official can use government personnel, equipment, materials or office building in an election campaign.
“The State Ethics Commission hereby finds Sue Roe in violation, albeit unintentional,” wrote Phillip Florence, chair of the commission.
The violation was not on her website for long. According to the consent order, when Roe was advised of it, “She advised that she would take immediate action to correct the error, which she did.”
“Being unaware that a violation existed does not change the fact that there was an ethics violation for which I am accountable,” Roe notes in the consent order. “I regret that this occurred as it is an embarrassment to me.”
The complaint was brought against Democrat Roe by Dennis Saylor, Chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party. It was filed August 29, 2012.
Jane Page Thompson, Roe's opponent in the race for the probate judge office, said Thursday that the complaint was meant to have come from the Aiken County Republican Party or South Carolina Republican Party and Saylor's name being attached to it was a mistake. The case began, Thompson said, after she emailed screenshots of the offending website flyer to the county and state Republican Party chairs. She added, had reporters listened to her “in September and October” about the ethics complaint, voters could have made a more informed choice.
Complaints filed relatively close to a general election are not considered by the Ethics Commission until after campaigns have ended.
On Nov. 28, the State Ethics Commission reviewed the complaint and moved forward, setting a hearing. But before a hearing took place, Roe agreed to admit the facts of the charge as true and accept her guilt.
Roe did not respond to repeated request for comment Wednesday and Thursday.
Saylor did not immediately respond to calls for comment Thursday afternoon.