Judge suspends Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg from managing woman's finances

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Charleston County probate court judge has suspended Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg from managing an elderly woman's finances, saying Tecklenburg made loans to himself from her fund without getting prior approval from the court.

The order from Probate Judge Irv Condon was issued May 1.

In December 2008, Tecklenburg was appointed a conservator of close friend Johnnie Wineglass' finances after she fell victim to a series of scams, according to his personal Facebook page.

In his order, Condon ordered Tecklenburg to release details of the three loans, which totaled $80,000 over five years.

The court papers state the transactions show "apparent self-dealing," which in legal terms means someone takes advantage of his position for his own personal gain.

"It was never his (Tecklenburg's) intent to do anything that wasn't in her best interest," one of Wineglass' goddaughter's Rhonda Geddings said. "I trust him totally when it comes to her finances."

On his personal Facebook page, Tecklenburg explained details of each loan; $20,000 in 2011 and $35,000 in 2014 for his wife Sandy's business, an art gallery, and a personal loan for $25,000 in 2016.

Tecklenburg said each loan was repaid in full plus interest, which he says was reported to the court.

The mayor wrote that had no idea he violated any rules.

"I'd just like to say that I wish I had understood the need for preclearance on these transactions from the very beginning and that I'm genuinely sorry for any questions that has raised," Tecklenburg said. "During that time neither Sandy not I have profited in any way from the many hours I've spent managing Ms. Johnnie's finances without compensation."

Judge Condon, a Republican, is seeking re-election in November and running against Democrats Kelsey Willey and Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley. Joseph Tecklenburg, the mayor's son, is on Willey's campaign committee.

The Goddaughter of Wineglass, Leila Potts Campbell, submitted a letter to Judge Condon in support of Tecklenburg which can be found below:

"Dear Judge Condon,

Tecklenburg, through a spokesman, declined further comment.

Probate Judge Irv Condon  has stated he is unable to comment on an ongoing case.

I have received media inquiries regarding a pending case. State law prohibits a judge from publicly commenting on a pending case. Below is the specific canon of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 501 Canon 3(B)(9):

(9) A judge shall not, while a proceeding is pending or impending in any court, make any public comment that might reasonably be expected to affect its outcome or impair its fairness or make any nonpublic comment that might substantially interfere with a fair trial or hearing. The judge shall require * similar abstention on the part of court personnel * subject to the judge's direction and control. This Section does not prohibit judges from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining for public information the procedures of the court. This Section does not apply to proceedings in which the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity.

A hearing has been scheduled in probate court for June 15.

Tecklenburg's full statement on Facebook can be found here or read in full below:

Today, I'm releasing the statement below, documenting my service as conservator for a close family friend, Ms. Johnnie Wineglass. It's quite lengthy, but in a nutshell, here's what it says: As conservator of Ms. Johnnie's finances for the past ten years, my biggest concern has always been the fact that her medical and nursing home expenses are greater than her monthly retirement income, creating a drain on her savings that could leave her unable to pay for the care she needs. In an effort to address that, I have placed part of her savings into four investments over the years that have created a little more than $8,000 in profit for Ms. Johnnie: three loans to Sandy's businesses and myself that were paid back with interest, and a real estate tax sale. All loans were fully documented and disclosed to the Probate Court when they occurred, and were fully paid back on schedule with interest. During that time, neither Sandy nor I have profited in any way from the many hours I've spent managing Ms. Johnnie's finances without compensation. Despite this, the Probate Court of Charleston has initiated a review of my work as Ms. Johnnie's conservator, with a formal hearing scheduled for June 15. In response, I have respectfully asked the Court to publicly release all records associated with the case, including the check registers which show precisely how I've managed the account.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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