Councilman resigns seat, loses law license after tax evasion plea

By Logan Smith - email

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A longtime Columbia city councilman has resigned his seat and had his law license suspended Tuesday after agreeing to plead guilty to federal tax evasion charges.

E.W. Cromartie II turned in a letter giving up his District II seat after a council meeting Tuesday afternoon at City Hall. The South Carolina Supreme Court suspended Cromartie's law license shortly thereafter.

Court documents show Cromartie agreed on March 3 to plead guilty to failing to pay more than $25,000 in federal income taxes in 2004, as well as making more than $200,000 in small cash deposits and withdrawals to avoid IRS minimum reporting requirements.

The plea agreement forced Cromartie to resign from office, in addition to serving a year and a day in prison and repaying the tax debt. So far no date has been set for Cromartie to actually enter the plea or begin his sentence.

State Supreme Court justices on Tuesday also assigned attorney Matthew Richardson to look over Cromartie's law practice to make sure his clients are protected, despite Cromartie's objections.

Now that Cromartie's seat is empty for the first time in 27 years, the focus turns to replacing him in a special election.

The council expects to address the vacancy at their meeting on Wednesday, and a special election for Cromartie's seat may be held as early as April 6.

Cromartie's guilty plea is the latest in a string of legal issues he has faced. Columbia Director of Public Safety Michael King on Monday accused Cromartie of conspiring with now-interim Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins in August to help a Vista nightclub avoid an overcrowding violation.

Cromartie also owns a convenience store which was cited in mid-February for selling alcohol to a minor, though Cromartie himself was not involved in the sale.

In addition, Cromartie was charged about five years ago with breaking code ordinances related to a building he owned on Senate Street, as well as improper maintenance of a nearby house. Two years before that, Cromartie admitted to using his mother's parking placard to park in a handicapped space.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved.