Beaufort County Board of Education representative John Dowling was charged last week with driving a vehicle without a license and registration because of delinquency — a misdemeanor offense.
The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette do not typically name individuals charged with misdemeanor offenses, but does so in cases in which the individual serves in a position of public trust, such as an elected official.
On Thursday, a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper pulled the Sun City representative over after observing Dowling's license plate decal had expired, according to S.C. Highway Patrol spokesman Lance Cpl. Matt Southern.
State law requires vehicle owners to be registered and licensed through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In most circumstances, an expired license plate decal indicates that a person has not paid vehicle or property taxes for the county in which they reside.
An expired plate could also mean a person paid his or her property taxes late and owes a late fee in order for the decal to be issued, according to Lauren Phillips, SCDMV's chief of strategic communications and community affairs. Phillips spoke generally of the agency's process and not to a particular case.
Dowling said Wednesday that payment of property taxes was not the issue because he does not own his home. Property records confirm his wife's name as the sole owner of their Sun City home.
Dowling said Beaufort County had not sent a reminder notice that his vehicle tax was due, so he simply forgot to pay the bill on time.
"I will be paying the fine and all will be squared away," he said Wednesday. "It was completely inadvertent."
As long as Dowling pays a $232.50 fine, Dowling's license will not be suspended, Southern said.
Voters elected Dowling to the board last fall. His term expires in 2020.