South Carolina millionaire, citizen watchdog dies at age 91

Edward “Ned” Sloan Jr., a millionaire businessman who fought in South Carolina courts for decades for the legal rights of citizens to understand what point out and community general public officers did with power and taxpayers’ dollars, has died at 91.

A Citadel graduate and longtime Greenville businessman, Sloan’s enthusiasm for keeping officers accountable led him to employ a attorney and established up a foundation that filed lawsuits to pierce veils of govt secrecy erected by some of the state’s most strong general public officers.

Generally working with the S.C. Independence of Information and facts Act, Sloan’s lawsuits — which he frequently but not constantly won — shone light into government’s darkest corners, exposing slush money, secret govt expending on politicians’ pet initiatives and questionable makes use of of ability at community and condition stages.

Sloan’s targets integrated recent S.C. Lawyer Typical Alan Wilson, who recently awarded a questionable $75 million fee to his previous law firm for purported authorized get the job done, and former Senate President Professional Tem Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, who utilized his ability to secretly steer millions in taxpayer revenue and authorities services to his pet task, the restoration of at the time sunken Accomplice submarine, the Hunley.

At the time of his death, on Oct. 27, Sloan was mounting a lawful problem to Clemson University’s follow of supplying life time appointments to sure associates of its board of trustees.

“We lost a warrior,” explained Joe Taylor, chairman of Sloan’s S.C. Public Curiosity Basis, a previous S.C. Division of Commerce secretary and Columbia investor.

“He experienced an astounding capacity to see the variance between right and wrong, and he was a winner of the little male,” Taylor claimed. “He had a feeling of responsibility to make positive all people played by the principles, due to the fact when you play by the rules, fantastic points transpire.”

Jay Bender, South Carolina’s foremost FOI attorney, stated, “Ned was a hero. He was a male who thought in open up govt and backed his beliefs with his wallet.”

“Fortunately, he experienced the assets and a terrific lawyer in Jim Carpenter. They did a excellent occupation in bringing community bodies to heel,” Bender claimed.

Carpenter, the Greenville law firm who did most of Sloan’s legal function, recalled his longtime client.

“He did not just sit all-around and gripe about matters. He took motion, set his own revenue into it, took criticism and heat for it, made enemies, but he did what he imagined was appropriate,” Carpenter claimed.

Around some 20 a long time, Carpenter submitted additional than 100 lawsuits for Sloan, arguing them in demo courts and on several occasions in the S.C. Supreme Court.

An obituary pointed out that Sloan and his basis, the S.C. General public Curiosity Basis, experienced sued, among the other individuals: the South Carolina Typical Assembly, the governor, Price range and Regulate Board, Board of Overall health and Environmental Control, Department of Transportation, and Greenville County, the town of Greenville, the Greenville Clinic System, Clemson University and university districts. The disputes’ concentrate on were being as varied as procurement techniques, possession of non-tidal submerged land, payment of service fees to a witness subpoenaed by the point out, use of community resources for private reasons, federal government credit card debt limit, twin place of work keeping and several other issues.

What manufactured Sloan tick?

Carpenter reported that as a longtime prosperous paving contractor, Sloan acquired a close-up seem at how authorities insiders worked on bond challenges and other mainly non-general public dynamics involving the expending of general public income and turned certain that govt desired to be far more clear.

“If he observed some thing unlawful, we would file a lawsuit,” Carpenter said.

Sloan had a perception of humor. His obituary mentioned he was “a lapsed Episcopalian and a lapsed Republican.”

When he been given a test for legal expenses from a government overall body that missing 1 of his lawsuits, he would just take a image of it and put up it on his wall. “He reported it was like the aged farmer who tacks a skunk cover on his barn wall as a trophy,” chuckled Carpenter.

Sloan was identified as numerous issues: a watchdog, crusader, citizen activist, a David who took on Goliath.

But he was proudest of becoming known as a “gadfly,” an age-aged expression at first employed to explain just one of the West’s most renowned philosophers, Socrates, who was condemned to demise all over 400 BC by the rulers of Athens for inquiring concerns.

Happy of the nickname, Sloan wore a gadfly lapel pin.

He was tough.

Requested in a 2004 job interview with Columbia’s No cost Moments if he had ever been threatened or informed to back off, Sloan replied, “Suit me good to get threatened. I imagine I can defend myself.”

‘THE COURT’S Beloved GADFLY’

Sloan’s victories in the state Supreme Court and other courts benefited citizens in longtime approaches, attorneys reported.

▪ In a circumstance involving secret paying by the Close friends of the Hunley, a foundation that was presented hundreds of thousands in public money by a general public body referred to as the Hunley Commission, the Good friends of the Hunley at first refused Sloan’s FOI ask for to turn above fiscal information to Sloan and Carpenter.

Sloan sued. After the lawsuit, the Good friends of the Hunley finally turned in excess of the records but refused to pay out the courtroom expenses of the FOI lawsuit, saying it experienced specified up the information. After quite a few appeals, the foundation compensated some of Sloan’s authorized costs.

But Sloan experienced recognized a precedent: that if a citizen is forced to retain the services of a lawyer and file a Independence of Data lawsuit to get public records, and the general public system only releases documents immediately after a lawsuit is filed, the general public entire body will have to pay out court docket fees up to the time the data are released.

“That was a good lesson for general public bodies — that they couldn’t just dismiss requests for facts until they acquired sued, then convert over the facts and say, ‘Okay, you got your documents, now go away,’ ” Bender mentioned.

Sloan’s function also:

▪ Firmly recognized in the contemporary era the principle that in sure conditions of community great importance, standard citizens have “standing,” or the appropriate to file a lawsuit towards public officers or authorities organizations. Ordinarily, to carry a lawsuit, a celebration has to create a immediate fiscal or other curiosity in the dispute at hand.

In a choice involving citizen-brought circumstance which the S.C. Supreme Courtroom turned down Gov. Henry McMaster’s effort and hard work to give $32 million in federal public money to non-public educational institutions, the large court docket cited two Sloan-initiated lawsuits on standing and explained the citizen who sued McMaster had the correct to sue.

“The standing instances had been vital, simply because they opened the doorway for other folks to stand up and say, ‘This officer is performing this illegally,’ or ‘This motion is unconstitutional,’ ” reported Carpenter. “Sloan’s cases get cited in almost each circumstance in which public curiosity standing occurs.”

▪ Received “bobtailing” — the observe of attaching unpopular laws to common expenditures the Legislature passes — declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Courtroom. Bills that come to be guidelines are only intended to deal with 1 subject space.

▪ Designed the S.C. Division of Transportation adhere to a legislation that said customers of its governing commissioners could provide no much more than a single consecutive time period. That point out Supreme Court docket conclusion resulted in the removal of a few of DOT’s commissioners.

▪ Compelled the S.C. Division of Revenue to adhere to the certain timelines established out in the Independence of Data Act that need general public companies to respond to requests for info or be sued. The DOR experienced claimed, primarily, that the moment it explained to a citizen it would release information, it then experienced unrestricted time to turn more than the paperwork, Carpenter claimed. “We won attorney’s fees on that all the way up to the Supreme Court docket.”

Carpenter estimated that over the many years Sloan invested at minimum various million bucks bankrolling lawsuits.

Sloan became these a standard in the condition Supreme Courtroom that in some cases, at the starting of one particular of his hearings, previous Main Justice Jean Toal would spot Sloan in the viewers and say, “Well, we’d like to welcome the court’s favorite gadfly, Mr. Sloan,” Carpenter recalled.

In his previous years, Sloan grew deaf but he kept up a continual stream of lawsuits.

In 2008, an editorial author with the Charleston Publish & Courier built an observation that has stood the test of time. “There is no other private citizen who has individually invested as much as Greenville’s Edward Sloan to make officials at all levels of South Carolina government adhere to the law.”