Missing campaign signs. Angry words on a suburban street. Overheard threats about a severed head in a crab pot.
These are the ingredients simmering in the latest stew between local gadfly David Coe and Charleston County Auditor Peggy Moseley.
Coe, a 65-year-old retired boat captain, has made it his mission these past three years to point out perceived problems with Moseley and the way she runs her office. His efforts apparently didn’t sit well with her husband, who paid a visit to Coe’s James Island home Thursday afternoon, according to a police report.
Coe said he was at his West Capers Avenue home when James Moseley drove up and accused him of taking down Peggy Moseley’s campaign sign in the area and “causing my wife to lose her job.”
Coe told Charleston County sheriff’s deputies that James Moseley then threatened to harm him, saying, “I am going to take care of you!! Your head should be in one of my crab pots,” according to a police report.
James Moseley, who lives on Johns Island, was gone by the time deputies arrived.
Peggy Moseley said her husband was unavailable to chat with a reporter Friday, but she insisted he didn’t make any threats toward Coe. She said her husband spotted Coe in the yard and stopped to speak with him about the missing sign, but never accused Coe of taking it.
Moseley said Coe laughed at her husband and suggested he get some more crab pots because she was going to lose her job soon and they would need the extra income.
“Mr. Coe is obsessed with harming me personally and everybody knows it,” she said. “This is all the time from Mr. Coe, and we just overlook it.”
Coe denied an obsession with the auditor and insisted he was the victim here.
Coe told deputies that two neighbors witnessed the argument and heard James Moseley threaten him with bodily harm. A deputy spoke with the two men and reported that they denied hearing Moseley threaten Coe, an incident report stated.
One of those witnesses told The Post and Courier that he did hear Moseley threaten to have Coe’s head in a crab pot. The man spoke only on the condition that his name not be used.
Sheriff’s Maj. Jim Brady said deputies were investigating the confrontation but no action is pending at the present time.
Coe said he went to a county magistrate Friday to get a restraining order against James Moseley but was told he couldn’t get it because the deputy’s incident report wasn’t properly filled out. Among other things, the report listed the auditor’s husband as “Moseley, Unknown” and failed to include his address, even though his full name and place of residence could have easily been obtained, Coe said.
Coe said the report falsely characterized what his witnesses told the deputy, who devoted much of his narrative to describing Coe’s “demeaning manner ” and “snide” comments.
“(The deputy) spent more time screwing with a 65-year-old man than doing his ... job,” Coe said.
Coe said he plans to travel to Columbia on Monday to formally complain to the State Law Enforcement Division about the Sheriff’s Office’s handling of the incident. He also plans to file an internal affairs complaint with the Sheriff’s Office.
Brady declined to comment on Coe’s complaints about the Sheriff’s Office.
Coe has been a relentless critic of Moseley since 2009, when he pushed the county to be more diligent about collecting taxes on yachts. He said more than $800,000 in county boat taxes has been collected in recent years in large part because of his efforts.
Coe often shows up at Charleston County Council’s public comment sessions to complain about Moseley.
Coe also drew attention last year to an agricultural tax exemption given to Moseley’s Johns Island residence. The county later removed agricultural tax exemptions from two parcels of property that Moseley owns on Johns Island. They also upped the taxable value of her adjacent home.
On April 20, Coe filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission stating that Moseley was seen driving her assigned county car to GOP offices to file for re-election. Moseley later reimbursed the county 16 cents for that trip.
“It would be good to get a restraining order against him, but being an elected official that probably won’t work,” Moseley said. “I just try to overlook him, but sometimes you can’t overlook someone who is being so ridiculous.”
Moseley currently is serving her fifth four-year term as auditor. To win a sixth, she must defeat two Republican opponents: former Charleston County School Board member David Engelman and former Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Paul Gawrych.
The GOP winner will face Democrat Peter Tecklenburg and possibly a petition candidate this fall.
Regardless of how the contest shakes out, Coe said he is walking away from the fight after the primary is decided because not enough people in the county seem to care what happens. “I’m disgusted,” he said. “The whole place can sink into the ocean and I don’t care.”