Dustin Waters file photo
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg signs over land downtown to be used for affordable housing on June 30, 2017
A Charleston County judge has suspended Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg from managing an elderly family friend's finances after finding that he made loans to himself from her account without court approval.
Multiple loans totaled slightly over $80,000 from 2011 to 2017, according to court documents.
On May 1, Judge Irvin Condon ordered the mayor to release documentation relating to the loans.
"The transactions show apparent self-dealing," the filing said. "The transactions show that John Tecklenburg made unsecured loans to himself and his family members' businesses."
Tecklenburg defended himself in a post on his public Facebook page
Thursday morning. The mayor says that the loans were made so he could invest part of Johnnie Wineglass's savings, a move that he says netted her $8,000.
"Almost 10 years ago, Sandy and I were distressed to learn that a close family friend, Ms. Johnnie Wineglass, had been the victim of a series of financial scams that had left her personal finances in shambles," Tecklenburg said in the statement. "That's why, in December of 2008, I agreed to serve as conservator of Ms. Johnnie's finances, which would allow me to protect her assets and her well-being in the years to come."
Wineglass is 92 years old and lives in West Ashley.
Tecklenburg used $25,000 from her fund for a tax sale that yielded her $3,000 in profit. Court documents show that he repaid that loan at $28,000.
"I also began to consider the option of making loans at the higher rate of 5% from the small trust account of Ms. Johnnie's whenever Sandy or I were planning to take out modest bank loans for our businesses or ourselves," he wrote.
One of those loans went to Meeting Street Gallery, which was opened by the mayor according to the South Carolina Arts Commission
The court action stated that Tecklenburg never sought prior approval from the court regarding any transaction representing a conflict of interest.
The law says, "Any sale or encumbrance to a conservator, his spouse, agent, or attorney, or any corporation or trust in which he has a substantial beneficial interest, or any transaction which is affected by a conflict of interest is void unless the transaction is approved by the court after notice to interested persons and others as directed by the court."
Tecklenburg said that he believed his certificate as conservator allowed the use of account funds without prior approval, and only learned that he needed clearance from the court when the court requested further documentation of the transactions in May 2017. He says he provided the documentation and believed the matter to be fully addressed last June.
He is scheduled for a hearing on June 15 in Probate Court.
A spokesperson for the city says it has no comment on matters regarding Mayor Tecklenburg as a private citizen.
In an unrelated legal matter, a New Jersey man is suing Tecklenburg
, claiming that the mayor backed into him while he was walking downtown in 2015. The Charleston Police Department found Tecklenburg to be at-fault for the accident, according to the lawsuit.