FOLLY BEACH — The State Ethics Commission is investigating a complaint against Mayor Tim Goodwin that he promoted approval of a referendum as part of two official letters to residents, he said Thursday.
“It was an unintended mistake,” Goodwin said when reached by phone.
One letter was about “The State of the City” and another was a “Rental Letter to Homeowners.” Both included a sentence or two in support of the Dec. 2 referendum to raise funds for beach nourishment, the mayor said.
Voters OK’d adding a 1 percent accommodations tax to raise funds for beach maintenance.
Goodwin said about $1,800 in city money was spent to print and mail the letters. Those funds have since been reimbursed through private fundraisers, he said.
An official with the Ethics Commission told Goodwin that the commission would decide whether the complaint had merit at a meeting in March.
“They said it was under investigation and they can’t talk about it until it is finished,” he said.
Goodwin said that he knows who filed the complaint but it is illegal for him to identify the person until the case is decided.
The mayor outlined the situation in correspondence that he sent to the Ethics Commission staff to explain his actions.
“Before the letters were finalized, I approved the inclusion of short statements (approximately two sentences) in each letter about the referendum with an encouragement to support the referendum,” he wrote.
Goodwin told Ethics Commission staff that he did not realize that adding the sentences in support of the ballot measure could constitute a violation of the law, he said.
After consulting with the city attorney, Goodwin said it was agreed that the appropriate corrective measure would be to seek private donations to cover the cost of the two letters and the staff time involved, he told the commission staff.
He asked for Ethics Commission help in implementing annual ethics training for city employees and elected officials.
Goodwin said Thursday that he could not discuss the matter further because it was still under investigation. He said that it boils down to putting two words in the city letters, “Vote yes.”
A spokeswoman for the Ethics Commission acknowledged receipt of the letter from Goodwin but had no comment on whether there is an investigation of a complaint against him.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711