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The Post and Courier provides a forum for our readers to share their opinions, and to hold up a mirror to our community. Publication does not imply endorsement by the newspaper; the editorial staff attempts to select a representative sample of letters because we believe it’s important to let our readers see the range of opinions their neighbors submit for publication.

Dawson contract letter wins February Golden Pen

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Joseph Dawson III was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December to be a federal judge in Greenville. Days before his Senate confirmation hearing, Dawson signed a document with the county in which he agreed to provide insight and institutional knowledge for the next 12 months in exchange for $216,000. 

The controversial $216,000 agreement between former Charleston County attorney Joe Dawson and County Council has spurred public outrage about the deal and the ethics behind the generous contract.

Jay Karen’s Feb. 10 letter on the subject, which raised many questions on the issue, is February’s Golden Pen winner.

His letter noted that when Dawson was being considered for a federal judgeship, he claimed to have no expected income outside the court.

“In the name of providing him a soft landing and to keep the lines of information open to Dawson as he serves his first year on the federal bench, the county writes a $216,000 check to him for independent contractor services,” Mr. Karen wrote.

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“At what point did Dawson or County Council leadership realize the new contract would be, at best, ethically dubious?”

He noted that Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said it wasn’t a contract, but then raised the question, “Yet what is a signed agreement other than a contract?”

Mr. Karen noted that from all accounts, Dawson served Charleston County with great effect for 20 years but then asked why he would allow his stellar reputation potentially to be sullied as he leaves.

Mr. Karen also asked other pointed questions, such as: Did County Council receive legal advice from anyone about this pricey agreement? Is there anywhere a more quid pro quo boys’ club than Lowcountry politics and government?

The Golden Pen is awarded monthly. Winners also are invited to an annual luncheon with the newspaper’s editorial staff.

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