FLASH: E.W. Cromartie to resign in plea agreement

HERE’s something that would have led my front page if it had come in a little sooner. This is HUGE:

COLUMBIA (AP) — The longest-serving city councilman in South Carolina’s capital has agreed to plead guilty to federal Cromartie_webtax evasion charges, according to documents filed in federal court last week.

Columbia City Councilman E.W. Cromartie II has agreed to plead guilty to failing to pay more than $25,000 in federal income taxes in 2004, according to a plea agreement filed March 3 in federal court.

The agreement shows Cromartie also admits to making more than $200,000 in cash deposits and withdrawals just below the IRS minimums for transaction reporting requirements.

No date has been set for Cromartie to enter the plea, and neither he nor his attorney immediately returned messages seeking comment. Cromartie could face up to 25 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines, although the agreement shows that both Cromartie and prosecutors agree that a sentence of one year and one day would be appropriate.

As part of his plea agreement, Cromartie agrees to resign from public office and surrender his law license. He also agrees to file amended tax returns, cooperate with prosecutors and take a polygraph test.

Cromartie is not up for re-election this year. He has served on Columbia’s city council for more than 25 years and was elected to his most recent four-year term in 2008.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the case since it has not been assigned to a judge.

Cromartie’s law practice specializes in civil litigation and worker compensation.

(Copyright ©2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Wow. A Columbia city council without E.W. Cromartie. That’s a consummation devoutly to be wished, and here it is…

I’ve wished in writing before that someone would at least emerge to challenge him for re-election. Now the seat’s wide open. Wow.

14 thoughts on “FLASH: E.W. Cromartie to resign in plea agreement

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    “The agreement shows Cromartie also admits to making more than $200,000 in cash deposits and withdrawals just below the IRS minimums for transaction reporting requirements.”

    Holy cow! I had heard from people in his neighborhoods that he was a crook, but I discounted it–figured he was just blatantly out for himself.

    I wonder how this came to light….

  2. Bob

    I just wonder how this flew under the radar so long. Obviously there has been an ongoing investigation; court documents were filed last Wednesday. The “rest of the story” should be very interesting.

  3. Walter

    This is for an audit of 2004, imagine what they’ll find in the 2005-2009 audits. I feel sorry for him… NOT!!!

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    I just spoke with someone who told me Adam Beam told her EW resigned from council today. (He was seeking a comment from her husband, a prominent opponent of EW’s) I cannot confirm this at Adam Beam’s blog. Checking Facebook now.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Plea agreement has him agreeing to 12 month + one day sentence–judge doesn’t have to go along with it, but…

    Also he has to give up law license and resign from elected office.

    Who replaces him?

  6. Brad Warthen

    Well, now, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I just asked Mayor Bob what happens next and he said there would be a special election, but he doesn’t know when.

    The ideal situation is that a strong, positive candidate emerges who has a lot of pull in the district already and is independent of Cromartie. The worst would be someone politically dependent on him.

  7. Walter

    Question, this is for year 2004, what happen of they find more on him in years 2005 – 2009? Does he get charged again? I’d love to see this slumlord, repeat tax delinquent, and worst of all… lawyer behind bars for longer than 366 days.

  8. Ralph Hightower

    The State published a few news articles a few years ago, that E.W. Cromartie was years delinquent in paying Columbia or Richland County taxes, or both. Do a search for year 2004.

  9. Brad Warthen

    And now we have this:

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – An August 2009 incident at a Vista Nightclub resulted in an administrative investigation into allegations that Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins and councilman E.W. Cromartie “were improperly influenced in order not to issue an overcrowding safety violation,” according to a report from Columbia Director of Public Safety Michael King.

    There is, of course, nothing remarkable about a Columbia city councilman injecting himself into the functioning of a city agency inappropriately. That is indeed characteristic of this form of government, and a main reason why recent city managers — until interim Steve Gantt — have been so unsuccessful.

    What’s remarkable is that a city councilman is getting investigated for it. Seems like when it rains it pours for E.W.

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    I guess the most disheartening thing in this whole heartening (is that a word) news is that Tameika Devine keeps saying nice things about EW. That man did an awful lot to keep his neighborhoods barefoot and pregnant–he fought beneficial code changes, especially those that were particularly onerous to slumlords like him. He seemed to be W.E. Itsallaboutme, as Neil White so aptly spoofed him in his wonderful As the City Turns series.

    I like Tameika, but her desire to be “nice” all the time is not her best feature. Sometimes you just have to be “not nice.” She could even say nothing.

    Wonder if Neil White has anything trenchant to say about all this…

  11. Brad Warthen

    She’s hardly the only one. Adam Beam reported this on Twitter yesterday: “Former councilman Hamilton Osborne on E.W. Cromartie: “The city is a better place to live and work as a result of his service.”

    And I remember him as “Councilman No.”

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    Hamilton was a veritable yes-man to the self-styled Island of No that is Kirkman. District Four is rich, so it wants a very small, inactive government so they can keep their taxes down.

    I wondered about Hamilton’s tweet, but then I kind of didn’t care all that much.

  13. Debbie McDaniel

    I have spoken to many in Cromartie’s district re why no one ever ran against him all these years. The answer: they were all threatened and bullied.
    PLEASE let someone decent and hardworking serve this district.

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