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A map showing Georgetown County Council's seven districts. Councilman Austin Beard represents District 5 in the far western part of the county. 

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part story relating concerns by several groups about compliance with residency by Georgetown County Councilman Austin Beard.

Coming up Tuesday, Jan. 8, Georgetown County Council members are scheduled to elect a chairman and vice chairman. But council’s new term begins as local organizations are challenging the residency status of one councilman.

The Georgetown County Chapter of the NAACP and other citizens’ groups have said they want current Vice Chairman Austin Beard off Georgetown County Council.

Marvin Neal, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, told the Georgetown Times he believes Beard no longer resides in council’s District 5. That district includes the Town of Andrews and other areas in the western and northwestern parts of Georgetown County.

The Georgetown Times attempted to speak with Beard about the allegations made by the local groups. At the time this story was published, the Times had not received any response from Beard. If he does respond, this story will be updated.

The story continues with more of the findings the groups have made, and with research by the Georgetown Times.

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Austin Beard

Austin Beard

New terms on Council

On Georgetown County’s website listing of County Council members, there is a photo, a brief biography and contact information for each member.

As of Friday, Jan. 4, the information had been updated to reflect that Louis Morant is the Council member for District 7. That is the seat formerly held by his brother Johnny Morant, who did not seek re-election this past year.

Louis Morant will be sworn in as a new member of Council at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Also, returning members Steve Goggans and John Thomas will be sworn in to their respective seats to serve four-year terms.

According to public documents reviewed by the NAACP, Neal said, Beard lives in Georgetown.

Document show that Beard and his wife Lori Lowell were married in June by Dr. Dora Gafford, pastor of Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church in Georgetown. The church bulletin during Christmas time shows that Austin Beard sings Bass in the Duncan Church Chancel Choir.

Call for action

In the packet of information sent to each member of County Council and to Billy Altman, the chairman of the Georgetown County Board of Voter Registration and Elections, Neal states on behalf of the NAACP:

“As of December2018, it is common knowledge that Austin Beard lives at 907 Huger Street, Georgetown, SC 29440 with his current wife, Lori Lowell. The residence is listed in the name of his wife, Lori Lowell. Upon further citizen's investigation, additional documentation will be forwarded to the SC Ethics Commission to conduct a full investigation to determine Austin Beard is or is not in compliance with the residency requirements of Georgetown County Council and if any violations involved financial compensation.”

“Your full attention to this matter is much appreciated.”

Neal told the Georgetown Times that Louis Morant said council is considering choosing Beard as the next chairman.

“I have some great concerns with (Beard’s) temperament,” Neal said. “I told my councilman, Louis Morant, if you vote for (Beard), I have concerns. There’s too much of a challenge there. He lashes out at other councilmen,” Neal said.

Those concerns and the lack of a residential address led Neal and others to look further, he said, especially since the election of chairman and vice chairman is scheduled for the next County Council meeting.

Public comments

For every meeting of a public body in Georgetown County, that body sets aside a period for comments from members of the public. As a general rule, the council, board or commission does not reply or address issues raised during the public comment period. If an issue is a serious matter, generally the body will look into the matter and make a statement or take action at a subsequent meeting.

Neal told the Georgetown Times that he and others plan to speak during the public comment portion of the County Council meeting on Tuesday, which begins at 5:30 p.m. County Council meets in Council Chambers on the second floor of the old Courthouse building at 129 Screven St. in Georgetown.

The County Board of Voter Registration and Elections will meet Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at 303 Hazard St. in Georgetown.

Since the Election Board is responsible for conduct of elections, Neal said, he also plans to speak to that body about the citizens’ groups concerns.

Neal said, “We will definitely address Council on Tuesday, to make sure they have clarity on what we are asking for, and also Wednesday at the Election (Board).”

“We are going to ask the commissioners [sic] to review all the evidence and take the necessary action, per the ordinance.”