News Archive

New questions surface regarding book purchases
New councilmembers looking forward to working for town
Transplant anniversary celebration honors Williamston teenager
West Pelzer Council approves police vehicle purchase program
Anderson District One kindergarten summer school axed under latest budget cuts
Anderson County Council elects Dees chairman

 Week of Jan. 8, 2003

New questions surface regarding book purchases

Questions resurfaced this week regarding book purchases made by former Williamston Mayor Marion Middleton during his term in office.

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy stated that new questions arose as the town began a full assessment of its assets for insurance purposes and began to inventory and account for the books.

Documents requested by The Town of Williamston from Easton Press show that Middleton apparently purchased 504 books between 1990 and 1997.

Some were purchased with a credit card, and some were recorded as cash transactions.  According to Easton Press, the cash transactions were either by check or money order.

The Town can account for only 225 books of the 504 books allegedly purchased. 

The Town has advised the solicitor’s office of the apparent discrepancy, according to Mayor  Clardy, who emphasizes that the Town has not requested nor initiated an investigation by the solicitor.

An investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) found a number of books at Middleton’s home and office valued at $1500 which led to a breach of trust charge in addition to embezzlement and conspiracy charges against him last year. The breach of trust charges were dropped as a part of the plea agreement.

A full review and accounting of all transactions has not been completed, however a review of the records by Town officials show that a town credit card was used for all credit card purchases with Easton Press, according to Clardy. By midnight Tuesday, Town officials confirmed that purchases totaling $7000 were made with town funds.

Details involving the cash transactions are still being verfied, according to Clardy, who stated that town financial records from 1990-1995 are incomplete and no town records for 1996 have been located

So far, a review of statements provided by Easton Press show credit card purchases included: The Downing Street Years – $130; Truman Memoirs - $195; West Point Atlas of American Wars – $112; Don Troiani’s Civil War – $98; Images of the Civil War – $105; Photo History of the Civil War – $499; The Astronaut’s Library - $495; Oxford Reference Library – $566; Churchill and Roosevelt – $163; Shakespeare Collection – $1,710.

Easton Press documents  reflected the following cash transactions: Gone with the Wind – $135; Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – $294; Easton Press Signed First Editions – $12, 465; Library of Great Lives – $5,174; The Complete Sherlock Holmes – $165; Solzhenitsyn – $123; Andersen’s Fairy Tales – $99; Winston Churchill – The Second World War – $358; Complete Works of Ernest Hemingway – $887; Smithsonian Guides – $507; American Chronicle – $234; Gilberts Churchill – $633; Jefferson – $474; Heroes of the West – $229; 100 Greatest Books Ever Written – $2,293; Morte D’Arthur – $158.

Although details of who actually paid for the purchases invoiced by Easton Press as cash purchases was unclear, unconfirmed reports about the nature of the book purchases fueled emotional responses from many citizens of the town.

A subsequent revelation that Middleton is in the process of seeking a pardon prompted additional negative reaction from many in the area.

The South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services confirmed Monday that Middleton has submitted an application for pardon to their office. Spokesperson Peter O’Boyle said Middleton applied for a pardon sometime in November 2002.

A representative of the Restitution Office in Anderson confirmed that Middleton had made restitution of all funds in November. The restitution check was sent to Columbia and has not yet reached the Town of Williamston. officials said.

The state office in Columbia is conducting a full review which usually takes several weeks before releasing the money to the town, officials said.

 Under state requirements, Middleton could not apply for a pardon until his sentence was served and full restitution was made. Under the terms of sentencing, Middleton’s probation ended upon his payment of the restitution.

According to state law, a person receiving a pardon is “fully forgiven from all the legal consequences of his crime and his conviction.” Persons pardoned may register to vote and vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, and be licensed for any occupation requiring a license.

Persons seeking a pardon must complete an application, submit three letters of reference, and pay a $50 application fee to S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services to initiate the process. An investigation of the application is then conducted by local probation and parole authorities.

The investigation on Middleton’s application should be completed by the end of February according to authorities. Investigators will then make a recommendation to the state Pardon and Parole Board. Usually the board schedules a hearing within seven to nine months after the recommendation is received. Victims of the crime, in this case the Town of Williamston, may testify at the hearing.

The 72-year-old Middleton pled guilty in August 2002 to embezzling $76,000 from the Town of Williamston during his term as mayor. He served 46 days of a 90 day sentence, receiving early release due to a work-credit program.

A trial is still pending for Donna Ellis who was also charged in the proceedings. Assistant Solicitor Kathy Hodges stated that Ellis’ case is one of more than 100 cases on the court docket for the session scheduled to begin January 13, 2003.

Hodges said there is a possibility that Ellis’ case could be tried near the end of the January session, but she feels it is unlikely based on the current case load.

Transplant anniversary celebration honors Williamston teenager

One Williamston family has a special reason to celebrate the beginning of a new year. After all, it is a time not easily forgotten by the family of 13-year-old James David Watkins.

January 2, 1993 was the day the 3-year-old son of Keith and Beth Watkins had a heart-lung transplant. And although his family celebrates his life every year at this time, they planned a special celebration for the 10-year milestone. Watkins’ family along with the South Carolina Gift of Life Trust held a reception in his honor at the First Baptist Church in Williamston on Jan. 5.

Wearing a boyish grin, Watkins enjoyed the celebration as much as anyone. Minnesota Twins designated hitter and Belton native Matthew LeCroy presented the teenager with a baseball bat with LeCroy’s name on it, gloves and wrist bands with LeCroy’s No. 24 on them as well as an autographed baseball card. The Twins hitter and his wife delayed an anniversary trip themselves in order to be on hand for the event. “He’s such a miracle,” LeCroy said. “He just makes you realize what we take for granted.”

Watkins was also excited about a gift from Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy. He proudly showed off a Williamston pin given to him by the mayor that he had pinned to his jacket.

Watching Watkins play with his family and friends gives no hint to the casual observer that the young man is a living miracle. At one year old, Watkins was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and congenital heart defects. He had the use of a quarter of a lung and a heart so enlarged that it took up most of his chest cavity. At two years of age, Watkins developed pneumonia-like symptoms that would not go away. According to doctors, the only option was a transplant.

In January 1992, the toddler was put on a national waiting list for a heart and lungs. Watkins’ condition worsened daily. He was put on oxygen to assist his breathing and to increase his energy level. He weighed 28 pounds and lived on a diet of baby food since he had trouble swallowing. Watkins’ mother Beth admits that the long wait for a donor was extremely difficult. “I thought my world was coming to an end, and I didn’t know if he would live long enough to get his transplant,” she confesses. On New Year’s Day in 1993, the news came that a possible donor was available. Watkins was taken to the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill to receive his new organs.

Watkins’ surgery was the first of its kind to be done at the hospital. At the time, Watkins was one of just 25 patients in the United States under the age of six to undergo the combined heart/double lung transplant. Four weeks later, he was released from the hospital. There was a dramatic improvement in his appearance and behavior, according to his parents.

The day that Watkins was put on oxygen to use at home, the doctor examined his younger brother Charlie who was six months old. His brother, now 10, was also diagnosed with heart defects. His problems were able to be treated with open heart surgery four days after the diagnosis. Now both brothers celebrate the anniversaries of their surgeries that were just months apart. Living in Louisburg, N.C. at the time, the family moved to Williamston once both brothers appeared to be doing well.

Other than the four drugs he takes twice a day to keep his body from attacking the transplanted organs, Watkins is much like any other student at Palmetto Middle School in Williamston. He returns to Chapel Hill every six months for a routine follow-up but has no current limitations. “James has been very nonchalant about his transplant,” Beth Watkins comments. “He doesn’t realize what a miracle he is.”

New councilmembers looking forward to working for town

Newly elected council members Greg Cole and Cecil Cothran were administered the oath of office and officially took their seats on Williamston Town Council Monday.

“The people of this community, the people of Williamston, have through the course of process, placed an almost entirely new leadership to govern their affairs,” Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy stated at the opening of the first meeting of 2003 for Williamston Town Council.

“Electing a new mayor and new councilmen, they have voiced the desire for fresh ideas, new concepts, and a reinforcement of time-old principles that transcend change.”

“Gentlemen, as this new leadership, we have set before us the continued challenge of learning how to best serve the people, and in its process, learning will require of us our faults, our failures, our shortcomings, and our ignorance. Yet, in its time, it will bring out of us our best efforts, experience, perseverence, wisdom and dedication, of which the people of Williamston deserve no less,” Clardy added.

Cole, accompanied by his wife Sherri, son Lee and daughter Kendall, was administered the oath of office by his father, Roy L. Cole.

Cothran was accompanied by his wife, Clara Sue, daughters Pat Jones and husband Brad, and Cindy Alewine and husband David. Also present were Cothran’s grandchildren. Town Clerk Hala Cochran administered the oath of office for Cothran.

Following remarks by Mayor Clardy, first action for Council was election of Mayor Pro Tempore.

Mayor Clardy nominated David Harvell, who was confirmed with a unanimous vote, minus Councilman Wade Pepper who was absent due to illness.

Council also unanimously confirmed Steve Ellison as Chief of the Williamston Fire Department.

Clardy announced that appointment of Municipal Judges would be held at the February meeting of Council, along with consideration of changes to allow a four year term.

It was also announced that the Municipal Association  meeting will be held Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at Dyar’s Diner, Pendleton.

Clardy also announced that he and members of Council will attend the gubernatorial inauguration on Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. in Columbia.

The Mayor and members of  Council will attend a meeting with  state legislators to discuss issues relevant to the town and county government, along with other municipal officials from Anderson County.

Council members will be meeting with town department heads and tour town facilities during January, according to Clardy.

The Mayor said he wants the two new council members to tour the Town’s facilities and to be introduced to staff members.

“It is my intention that these councilmen be as informed as possible on the official business of the town.

To help Council be more informed on the issues facing the Town, Clardy suggested that Council meet in work sessions prior to the regular 6 p.m. meetings.

The work sessions, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. will be open to the public and will allow the mayor and council to prepare for and discuss issues facing the town.

Clardy said the meetings will be open to the general public and are for information only. Official action of the town Council will be carried out during the official meeting which will continue to be held at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of each month.

Councilman Cole said  he is looking  forward to working with the people of Williamston and moving forward.

“It went well,” Cole said of his first meeting. “I was kind of nervous.” Cole said it will take a learning process to become familiar with the procedures of Council.

He will attend municipal classes in February in Columbia, which are offered for new representatives.

Cole said he would like to look at policies of the town and job descriptions of town employees. “I want to  make sure we have enough employees, but not too many,” he said. He also said he wants to work with the town employess to help the town and make sure tax money is spent wisely.

Of his first meeting, Councilman Cothran said, “It went well. This will be a challenge. I will do my best to help the town.”

Cothran said he wants to look at cutting expenses. “With the economy, somewhere down the road we will have to look at spending. It is always easier to do this before you have to,” he said.

“I think the mayor has things going in the right direction. I will help all I can. I’m looking forward to that,” Cothran said.

He will also be attending the classes in Columbia with Cole in February.

West Pelzer Council approves police vehicle purchase program

West Pelzer Town Council held a special meeting Jan. 3 to discuss a new program for purchasing police vehicles.

Mayor Bill Alexander turned the meeting over to Police Officer Charles Rogers who presented information on acquiring police cars through a new program which is a part of the Homeland Security Act. The goal of the program is to furnish every uniformed police officer with a vehicle at a very small charge according to Rogers. He named several municipalities including Westminster and Central which have already taken advantage of the program.

Government Acquisitions based in Delaware manages the program and processes all applications. Once an application is approved and a municipality has met the requirements, fully equipped vehicles are issued for three years at a cost of $1 per vehicle. The Town would then supply insurance, fuel and maintenance for the vehicles which would be under warranty, Rogers continued.

Since the cost of each vehicle is underwritten by corporate sponsors, each vehicle must have a minimum of four 5”X10” advertisements from sponsors. The Town would have the option of choosing the sponsors they desire as well as designing the cars within the guidelines specified according to Rogers.

After some questions and discussion, the Council voted unanimously to approve acceptance into the program and to pursue the acquisition of four police cars.

Anderson District One kindergarten summer school axed under latest budget cuts

By Stephanie Summerlin

One casualty of the state’s latest round of budget cuts was among the items examined at Anderson School District One’s January meeting Tuesday.

According to Dr. Wayne Fowler, assistant superintendent for instructions, the district will not offer summer school for kindergarten due to cuts in the state’s First Steps budget.

“We added the kindergarten program last year for summer school,” Fowler says. “This year, due to budget cuts, we’re going to take that out. But we still have all of our 4K programs. That’s the main goal – to keep our 4K classes functioning.”

Fowler also announced several changes to the district’s curriculum unrelated to budget cuts. On the kindergarten front, plans are for Anderson One to revise its curriculum to include all state standards for English language arts, math, science and social studies. Kindergarten report cards will reflect those changes.

Other curriculum changes include aligning the district’s guidance plan with the state’s plan; revising career development modules for grades 6-12; and having staff development for the second semester focus on literacy development.

But the biggest curriculum-related news came in the district’s new special education cohort, which will provide Anderson One teachers with an opportunity to earn a master’s degree in special education from Clemson University without having to set foot on the college campus.

“What that means is they’re going to send their college professors to District One sites, and they’re going to carry out a complete master’s degree program for our teachers,” Fowler says. “The beauty of this is not just that they don’t have to drive and leave the district. The cost of this is about one-third the cost of those same courses on the Clemson campus.”

David Havird, assistant superintendent, announced the district had also acquired funds from the Duke Endowment – a project he and District One’s Dr. John Pruitt had been working on for several years. The grant will provide four nurses to serve the district, with the first year at no charge to Anderson One. In the four following years, the district will only be required to pay 25 percent of the nurses’ salaries.

District Business Manager Steve Uldrick reported that Anderson One  had year-to-date revenues of $24,857,166 (47 percent of budget) and expenditures of $23,540,447 ( 40 percent of budget). He also noted that tax collections were double what they were at this point last year, with $3.1 million collected in December.

“We got over our cash flow difficulties at the end of the year,” District One Superintendent Dr. Reggie Christopher says. “We’re in pretty good shape right now.”

In his student nutritional report, Havird reported that 95,565 meals were served in November in District One. Revenues for the district’s cafeterias were $217,028, with expenditures of $182,009.

With one more year to determine its own school calendar, the Anderson One board learned that the 2003-04 school year will begin Aug. 7.

And on the personnel side, Christopher requested a one-year extension to his contract as superintendent, which will run from June 30, 2003 to June 30, 2004. The board unanimously approved the extension.

The public portion of the board’s meeting concluded with the following personnel requests:

Request for leave of absence – Ellen Abramo, Spearman Elementary, second grade.

Resignations – Donna Chandler, Wren High, English; Meredith Gossett, Wren High, science.

Recommendations – Bill McKinney, Wren High, science; Sean McNinney, Wren High, English.

Anderson County Council
elects Dees  chairman

Anderson County Council officially  elected  District  6 Council member Bill Dees as its 2003 chairman at its first meeting of the year Jan. 7. Dees received unanimous approval from all council members.

  Council  member Mike Holden indicated that an unofficial agreement was made in June 2002 to have Dees serve in the position. Holden stated that he did not support that agreement at the time since he felt the Council should wait until after the November elections to consider a nominee.

Council member Larry Greer announced that he would not serve this year as chairman. Council member Fred Tolly nominated Greer as vice-chairman. Council member Gracie Floyd added Holden as a nominee for vice-chairman.

A split vote of 4-3 resulted in Greer’s election. Council members Cindy Wilson, Gracie Floyd and Mike Holden voted for Holden. The four remaining member - Dees, Tolly, Greer, and Wright - supported Greer.

Wilson continued her questions regarding  budget and financial matters. More information will follow in next week’s Journal.

The council spent  time discussing the agenda ordinance and its meaning. Acting on a motion from Floyd, the council voted unanimously to have all members give input to County Attorney Tom Martin who would be responsible for the clarification of the ordinance.

Closing comments from Chairman Dees and Council member Wright emphasized the need for the Council to focus on budget issues and finalizing the Land Use Ordinance this year.  



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