The Catch-Up: More endorsements for Lexington Town Council

Also: Maurice's sued, former school board member fined by ethics commission

Posted 3/29/23

Four candidates are seeking the seat up for special election May 2 following the departure of Steve Baker. 

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The Catch-Up: More endorsements for Lexington Town Council

Also: Maurice's sued, former school board member fined by ethics commission


Gavin Smith continues to rack up endorsements from local officials in his bid to join Lexington Town Council.

In the last week, Smith has announced the formal support of Beth Carrigg and Darrell Hudson, respectively the chair and vice-chair of Lexington County Council.

Smith, the owner of his own government and public relations firm and a former partner in the scuttled Navy Yard on Main beer garden, is one of four candidates seeking the seat up for special election May 2 following the departure of Steve Baker. 

Smith previously announced endorsements from State Sen. Katrina Shealy and Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall, with the latter also signing on to chair his campaign steering committee.

Smith isn’t the only candidate to secure an endorsement from a local official.

Realtor Edwin Gerace’s campaign website lists an endorsement from Lexington County Auditor Chris Harmon.

Former school board member found guilty by ethics commision

A former Lexington-Richland District 5 board member has been found guilty of violating state ethics laws.

Per The State’s Holly Poag, Ken Loveless, who lost reelection to the school board in November, was found guilty by the state Ethics Commission of three counts related to inquiries he made about the construction of Piney Woods Elementary School.

These inquiries represented a conflict of interest as Loveless’ company had been hired to work on a separate project by the construction company working on Piney Woods.

“Regarding conflicts of interest, the Commission has long held that recusal is required in any matter that implicates the economic interest of a business with which a public official is associated,” the order is quoted.

Loveless was ordered to pay a fine of $5,250 ($1,750 per count) and a $900 administrative fee.

Maurice’s sued for racism, sexual harassment

A West Columbia-based restaurant chain as known for its controversial past as its neon-yellow sauce faces lawsuits alleging racism and sexual harassment.

Announced in a press release from the Strom Law Firm, one suit, filed last week, finds a former alleging that now-former manager Jeff Harrison “pressured her into a sexual relationship in exchange for a pay raise and forced himself onto her before becoming belligerent, violent and descending into racist rants and threats when she tried to refuse.”

According to the release, a second suit was filed in February by a friend of the former employee who alleges that he “became the target of Harrison’s threats when he stood up for Robinson.” 

“When Wooden told Harrison to leave his friend alone, the Piggie Park manager went off the deep end calling Wooden a 'n****r' and 'porch monkey' while threatening to break his jaw. Wooden and Robinson are both African American.”

The State’s Bristow Merchant reported catching up with Maurice’s President Lloyd Bessinger last week, who said Harrison was fired a year ago.

“We don’t condone or accept any sexual behavior like that or intimidation by employees against other employees, or customers for that matter,” Bessinger is quoted. “We’re a local family business that’s been in Columbia over 60 years, and we’ve never had any issues like this before. We just want to serve the community, be part of the community and serve great BBQ.”

Race-related controversy isn’t new for Maurice’s. Under the leadership of former owner Maurice Bessinger, who once appealed to the Supreme Court to defend his right to not serve Black customers, the restaurants displayed the Confederate flag and handed out pamphlets defending a “biblical view of slavery.”

Since taking over the chain, his children have removed the flags and tried to distance themselves from those actions.

DOT adjusts bridge closure schedule

The state Department of Transportation has adjusted the schedule for a bridge closure near Chapin reported in last week’s Chronicle.

The closure of the Mount Vernon Church overpass over Interstate 26 is now slated to go from April 10 to 24.

Detour information can be found at

gavin smith lexington, edwin gerace town council, maurice's lawsuit, ken loveless


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