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Ever since we wrote about the family issues plaguing S.C. Rep. Andy Patrick (above), we’ve been getting blown up with emails from his father-in-law, Michael Stefonick.

Bear in mind FITS isn’t zeroing in on this “Republican in Name Only” for his personal problems – although they are very hard to ignore seeing as Stefonick has been blasting Patrick’s drama all over his Facebook page.

And while that’s ordinarily the sort of thing we’d leave alone, Stefonick isn’t just publicly complaining about his son-in-law – he’s threatening to run against him in the next election for the S.C. House of Representatives.

For real …

Not only that, Stefonick is alleging Patrick stiffed him in the amount of roughly $170,000 – which is the sort of money people get killed over.  That money is the subject of a civil suit that’s related to the divorce proceedings between Patrick and his wife, Amee.

Then there’s a transparency angle to all of this … notably the improper sealing of Patrick’s divorce file by a presiding Lowcountry family court judge.

Anyway … here’s what Stefonick had to say about Patrick in a recent Facebook post:

Since Facebook asked what is on my mind it’s my daughter Amee and grandchildren, honestly. I am amazed how many elected politicians are lawyers and still practice. They know all the Judges and that gives them access. Recently my Son In Law had my daughter Amee hauled into court on a child custody marital issue. He had the case sealed inapropatly (sic) according to the judge he helped elect. The prior judge had no basis to seal it. They wanted to gag my daughter meaning she could not talk to me her father or anyone else about the simple case. The good news is the Judge hearing the case said wow. It cannot be sealed and it must go to any out of county judge. It was too hot to handle in my opinion when her affidavit is read. Thank you Judge for your honest assessment. His lawyer was another elected state rep in SC who yelled out you mean I drove 5 hours and I did not accomplish anything. Counselor get over it (sic) make sure you get a retainer because he owes me $170,000 as well as others. The case is now public knowledge. Governor Haley should investigate Andrew Patricks (sic) campaign account and that of his attorney for possible unethical legal practices. I plan to run against Andy in the upcoming elections. Integrity, honesty, and character matter, at least it does to me. Thank you Lauren Martel, esq (sic), for representing my almost broken daughter. She is much stronger today. You rock.

Wow …

Okay … so what’s really going on here?  Obviously, Stefonick’s post raises a whole host of questions.  First, why was Andy and Amee Patrick’s family divorce case sealed?  Was there a legal basis to seal it?  What was in those affidavits that was so explosive?

And aside from these transparency-related arguments … where’s the missing $170,000?

Patrick is being represented in his divorce by S.C. Rep. Doug Brannon (RINO-Spartanburg), a fellow South Carolina lawmaker and an attorney from the other end of the state.  Which raises another question: Why is a lawyer-legislator from the Upstate representing a fellow legislator in family court actions pending in the Lowcountry?

Whatever the reason, Brannon somehow convinced the presiding family court judge to seal the case file – despite failing to provide a proper motion explaining “why sealing (was) necessary” and “why less drastic alternatives to sealing will not afford adequate protection” to his client.

Such a motion is required by the South Carolina rules of civil procedure – and is a check against the arbitrary sealing of documents in cases just like this one.

Despite the judge’s order to seal the case, FITS is endeavoring to obtain this court file from our network of sources in the state’s judicial branch of government.

We’ll let you know what we uncover …

As for the $170,000, it’s a tangled web involving multiple lawsuits …

First, Lowcountry attorney Robert M. Deeb, Jr. was sued by Stefonick in July over his receipt of $163,811 that Stefonick says he deposited in Deeb’s law firm’s escrow account in July 2010 (ostensibly to help Andy and Amee buy a house on Hilton Head).

When that sale fell through, Deeb gave the money back to Patrick – not Stefonick.

After Stefonick sued Deeb to get his money back, Deeb sued the Patricks – alleging nasty things like misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and conversion, and asking for punitive damages and attorney fees.

Things then get even more confusing from there. The court papers we’ve been able to uncover are full of “he said, she said” statements. Andy Patrick says he and Amee – not Stefonick – deposited the $163,811 with the law firm, and that the money was theirs all along.  Amee disagrees, saying the money came from her father.  She also claims to have no idea what happened to the money after Deeb turned it over to her husband.

Testimony or affidavits in the family court case would obviously shed some light on who’s telling the truth; again, however, that action has been sealed.

FITS has spoken with a pair of Lowcountry judges who have seen the Patricks’ divorce file – and both say it was sealed “with good reason.”  We can’t imagine what that reason might be, but we will continue to dig on this case in an effort to uncover the answer …