Angry neighbors crashed a news conference Wednesday outside Horry County Council District 4 candidate Richard “Dick” Withington’s house as Withington defended his actions that led to a bribery charge against him.
“I don’t want your vote. I don’t want your vote, sorry,” Withington told his neighbors who interrupted the news conference.
Withington was arrested March 29 and charged with bribery after he accepted money during an undercover operation, which was prompted by an email he sent to several Horry County councilmen saying he would drop out of the race for “maybe $20,000,” according to law enforcement and arrest warrants.
Despite his arrest, Withington reiterated Wednesday that he is staying in the races for Horry County Council District 4 and the S.C. Senate District 34 -- though if he wins both, he will take the state senate seat.
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Withington said the county councilmen he sent the email to took it differently than he had intended. Withington sent the email at 2:30 a.m. March 20.
“They took it to the authorities because they thought I committed a crime. I didn’t commit any crime,” Withington said.
They took it to the authorities because they thought I committed a crime. I didn’t commit any crime.
Dick Withington, candidate for Horry County Council and a state senate seat
Withington, 72, of Myrtle Beach is charged with inducement to file for, or withdraw from, candidacy for election, according to J. Reuben Long Detention Center records. He was given a $10,000 bond and no-contact orders from several of the victims.
During the Wednesday news conference, Withington’s neighbors’ Frankie Maceli and Craig Kramer said they did not want Withington to get elected because he’s not the right person for the job and difficult to deal with as a neighbor.
“How can he make a good councilman or senator if he isn’t even a good neighbor,” Kramer said.
The men stood on the sidewalk in front of Withington’s home and asked if Withington was going to represent them if he was elected.
“Not you,” he told the men who were angrily shouting questions at him.
“Mr. New York. Mr. Mafia Man. How ‘bout getting off my property,” Withington told Maceli, who is of Italian decent and said he was offended by those remarks.
How can he make a good councilman or senator if he isn’t even a good neighbor.
Craig Kramer, Withington’s neighbor
During the roughly 30-minute news conference, Withington talked about everything from the email to the health of one of his opponents.
He said he had no regrets about sending the email and didn’t feel the incident would cause any tension between him and other council members if he was elected to county council.
He sent the email to Gary Loftus, an opponent in the Horry County Council District 4 race; council members Johnny Vaught and Cam Crawford; and Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.
Withington said he believed he would make a better councilman than Loftus, saying Loftus seemed like he was old and needed to retire. Loftus declined to comment Wednesday.
“I am not trying to scare anyone, but with your age and general appearance, you seem old to me,” Withington said in the email.
Withington ends the email saying he has a clear conscience because “I have offered a fair option, which should make everyone happy, I believe. My personal Coach, also known as the Holy Spirit has helped me write this.”
He also told the recipients to keep the email confidential.
Before his arrest, an undercover officer talked to Withington, who said he wanted $20,000 from a victim, but said he would take $5,000 as his share from the victim instead, according to a police report.
Authorities arranged to meet Withington at 12:20 p.m. March 29 to get the money, and the undercover officer arrived with an envelope that contained $5,000, police said.
Details of that meeting and how money changed hands were blacked out of the Horry County police report, but the report notes that Withington was arrested during that meeting. An arrest warrant states Withington accepted the money.
Last week before the email was released, he denied allegations that he attempted to gain thousands of dollars from four people as payment to drop out of the Horry County race. He told The Sun News that he was not asking anyone for money to drop out of the race and thought he was given a “fishy” campaign contribution when he accepted an envelope from an undercover Horry County police officer last month.
Withington is set to appear at the Horry County Courthouse on the charge June 10, according to court officials.
Withington’s arrest won’t take him off the ballots, said Sandy Martin, director of Horry County Registration and Elections. Withington is considered innocent until proven guilty, she said.
Withington said that if he won both elections, he would take the state role because it is a more important and interesting job.
“All these jobs are difficult, thankless jobs that don’t pay very much to be honest with you,” Withington said, adding that the Horry County Council seemed very organized and would be a “boring” job.