Group claims City of Charleston violated Heritage Act, city responds

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The American Heritage Association is accusing the City of Charleston and Mayor John Tecklenburg of violating the Heritage Act over the removal of a marker.

The group claimed Thursday that Mayor Tecklenburg’s office “admitted to removing the Robert E. Lee Memorial” from the Charleston School of Math and Science in a letter that was sent to the association back in December 2021.

“The AHA believes this action to be in direct violation of South Carolina’s Heritage Act. The mayor’s decision to remove this cherished historical monument appears to be his unilateral action since the AHA has been unable to discover any record of City Council’s approval,” the group said.

Charleston city leaders said they received a letter from the Charleston School of Math and Science requesting the removal of the marker from their property in July 2020.

“Mindful of the state’s Heritage Act, which limits the authority of local governments with regard to certain removals and renamings, city officials paused any action on the request, and asked the city’s legal department to look into the issue,” city leaders said.

After carefully examining the law and facts, the city’s legal department decided that removal or relocation of the marker was allowed under the Heritage Act.

They said the legal department found that the act did not forbid the removal or relocation of the road marker.

A Charleston man reached out to News 2 in 2020 after he noticed the historical marker at the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, wanting to know how the marker got there and who was responsible for placing it there.

The monument dates back to 1947 and was donated by the Daughters of Confederacy to honor Lee.

Leaders from the City of Charleston and the Charleston County School District told News 2 at the time it was unclear who owned the statue or how it originated.

“In the same time frame, Charleston County School District (CCSD) Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait reiterated the district’s request for removal in a letter dated Feb. 16, 2021,” officials said, then moving to honor the district’s request and placed it in safe storage.

You can read a copy of the letter by clicking here.

“The city of Charleston strongly respects the rule of law and recognizes the authority of the Heritage Act,” said city attorney Julia Copeland. “We simply do not believe it applies in this case. And we look forward to reaching an agreement with the UDC that satisfies the concerns of all involved.”

The American Heritage Association said it is investigating whether the action by the city constitutes “misconduct in office.” Leaders with the group said they are considering legal options to have the memorial replaced.