Efficiency, spending issues in 16th Judicial Circuit solicitor's race

Talk to the candidates running for the 16th Circuit solicitor's post and two themes come up: efficiency and spending.

Democratic newcomer Philip Jamieson, 53, wants to slash what he calls wasteful spending.

Republican incumbent Kevin Brackett, 43, wants to find ways to move more cases through the system.

Both men contend their experience makes them qualified to lead the office. Voters will decide Nov. 4.

Jamieson, a Rock Hill attorney, has worked as a police officer, supervisor and trainer, as well as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.

"I have been in every facet of the criminal justice system," he said. "I understand how it all works and how it works together."

Brackett's solicitor's office experience spans 17 years, including stints as an assistant solicitor and chief deputy solicitor.

"In the last 17 years, this office has gone from the worst in the state to the best," he said. "I have been part of the process of making it the best."

Since Brackett's 2006 appointment, he has started a worthless check unit that has collected more than $100,000 in bounced checks and fees since January.

He used a federal grant to outfit patrol officers in York and Union counties with digital cameras so they could record crime scenes.

He also is working with Chief Justice Jean Toal to debut a program to reduce time spent on guilty pleas in court. During a guilty plea, a judge asks the defendant a series of questions during a three- to four-minute span.

Under the proposed new program, a court approved form would list those questions and be signed by the defendant and his attorney before court, Brackett said.

"If we can cut the time it takes to do a guilty plea from six minutes to three, in a half-hour, then we can do 10 guilty pleas instead of five," he said.

Meanwhile, Jamieson said the solicitor's office overspends taxpayers' money.

"They spend $12,000 a year on cell phones," he said. "They're providing far too many cell phones for people to use, and they're not necessary to get the job done."

The office also shells out $6,000 a year for cars, Jamieson said.

"They have a number of cars that they drive at taxpayers' expense to and from home and on personal errands," he said.

But Brackett argued that the cars and cell phones are justified.

"We depend on these devices so we can stay on top of our cases," he said. "It's about efficiency. My attorneys are available for law enforcement 24 hours. Crime isn't a 9 to 5 thing. It happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

As for the cars, "Every other police office in the county takes their cars home, and so do my investigators," Brackett said.

Also at issue is a dispute between Brackett and York Police Chief Bill Mobley that stemmed from a gang-related shooting in 2007 that killed one man and left another dead.

"Kevin Brackett got into a very public disagreement with the York police chief and commented on a case," Jamieson said. "It was very unprofessional to comment on a case that was under investigation."

Brackett said he regrets how that situation played out, but that the relationship has been mended.

"We've worked together since then," he said. "We have an outstanding relationship now."

The solicitor serves a four-year term and earns about $128,000 annually.

The candidates

Kevin Bracket

• Age: 43, born Feb. 26, 1965

• Education: Bachelor's degree in international studies from the University of South Carolina; law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law

• Career: 16th Judicial Circuit solicitor; previously was chief deputy solicitor (1995-2006) and an assistant solicitor (1991-1995)

• Family: Wife, Susan; daughter, Molly

• Political experience: Appointed 16th Circuit solicitor in 2006

Philip Jamieson

• Age: 53, born Jan. 19, 1955

• Education: Bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of North Carolina Charlotte; master's degree in criminal justice from UNCC, and law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law

• Career: Attorney for the past seven years; previously worked as a police officer and in other law enforcement jobs in Gastonia, N.C., and Morganton, N.C.

• Family: Wife, Yvette

• Political experience: No previous political experience. Served as the president of the York County Bar Association