(0406) Week of Jan. 25, 2006
taking steps to deal with serious financial crisis
In the midst of a serious financial crisis, Williamston Town Council took the first step toward repairing the finances of the town, meeting with Appalachian Council of Governments representative Joe Newton in a public roundtable session Tuesday evening.
According to officials, the town is facing a serious financial situation which will have to be addressed with major expenditure cuts including personnel and services and most probably increases in taxes and other fees including garbage, water and sewer rates, and even business licenses.
Sitting at a table in the center of council chambers and surrounded by concerned citizens in a standing room only meeting, the mayor and council heard some specific suggestions by the ACOG representative.
Mayor Phillip Clardy said the meeting was the first of many for the town and that council is coming together to work on the issues. The goal of the meeting is to demonstrate collective effort of our council to address the situation, Clardy said.
Newton said the meeting was also to let citizens know what is going on and to address rumors. There are a lot of rumors, he said.
Newton, speaking to citizens as much as to council, said the town is having serious financial difficulties and that drastic measures must be taken.
The town is in pretty serious financial trouble, Newton said. There must be something drastic done or the town will run out of money. You will not be able to function as you should.
Newton said that if the town does run out of money, it still cannot declare bankruptcy. There is no such thing as municipal bankruptcy in South Carolina. You will pay the bills because you have no choice.
Newton also said that dissolving the town was not a choice. You will still have to pay the bills, he said.
If something is not done outsiders will be involved. If it goes that far, according to Newton, out of towners will tell you how to do it.
The town is in terrible financial situation. The question is how quickly you will run out of money.
Newton addressed recommendations made in a letter which was presented to council just prior to the meeting.
Suggestions included having council work as a team and take a more active role in the towns financial management and keep citizens informed by sharing problems and progress with them.
He also said the town must slash expenditures and raise new revenues.
You must seriously consider downsizing your city operations and services. You cant continue to operate with the revenues you will get, he said.
Newton said that by June or July, the town should try to initiate a long term GO bond, financing it for five or six years, adding and you will pay it back. He said the loan will give the town cash to pay bills until the 2007 taxes are received.
The key according to Newton, is the town must do the necessary cuts before going to the bank. Today they probably wouldnt lend it to you, he said.
Immediate problems the town is facing according to Newton are: no budget; a rapidly diminishing cash-flow; overdue payables; past due payroll withholding to the IRS; past due payroll, retirement and court fines to the state treasurer; overdue debt payments to two banks; operating expenses will shortly exceed available revenues and no cash reserves.
Newton said the town should begin public information meetings immediately to cut the rumors out.
He also made the following suggestions: hold weekly budget financial workshops; selectively pay on bills; contact vendors to notify them of the citys intent to pay in full as soon as possible; shut down nonessential services; and immediately cut operating expenses.
Newton said the town needs to get the budget balanced using the draft budget as a starting point and then raise fees including water, sewer, sanitation, franchise fees and business licenses.
He also said the town should secure a $700,000 general obligation bond by June or July with a five year term and incorporating the $350,000 BAN note which is a one year note. The GO bond will allow the town to pay back debts and cover responsibilities until January of next year when tax funds come in.
He suggested that town officials set sufficient tax millage to pay debts and to provide essential city services by August.
If these steps are taken the town will be fine, he said. You will not be as big as before, but you will have paid bills and are coming out of the hole.
Newton predicted that in 2 to 3 years, Williamston will be fine. It will be a bad memory.
He said other towns facing similar situations, including Duncan, Iva, Woodruff, and Chesnee, are better now than before. Newton said that with slashes and cuts, the towns are doing very, very well. They are where you want to be very soon. It is not easy and it is not pleasant, Newton said.
He urged the citizens to back off and give the mayor and council time to fix the problems. I am asking the citizens to give you a little bit of time. He also urged the council not to cut people who are helping get the town out of the situation.
The next meeting of Council is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31. The public will be allowed to ask questions and express concerns.
Newton said the meeting will be a torchlight meeting, in which public comments will be taken and specific numbers reflecting who is owed and how much will be presented. It will be very, very important for the town. The first major step to recovery, he said.
The town has already undertaken some steps in dealing with the financial crisis according to Mayor Clardy.
Clardy said that the 2006 budget will be a starting point and that he has talked with department heads about the seriousness of the situation and the possibility of cuts. He said the town will hold public meeting every week for as long as necessary.
Updating the financial situation, he said the town was delinquent on the 2nd and 3rd quarter state and federal withholding but has paid the 2nd quarter. He said only the 3rd quarter is delinquent and that the 4th quarter is now just due.
He said he has also talked with representatives of the SC Dept of Revenue and the SC retirement system, who were more than receptive about dealing with the towns situation.
He also said the town had made a payment on the water bond, (which Newton later said was three payments behind.) Clardy said the town is expecting reimbursement on the sidewalk project of $97,000.
He said the town is also talking with vendors and appreciate their cooperatioin in working with the town.
As far as expenditures and revenues, Clardy said the council will have to determine and act on what they consider to be nonessential services.
He said a 1 percent increase in the Duke Power franchise fee may be sufficient, bringing in an additional $85,000 to $90,000 annually. An $8.50 garbage fee will bring in $350,000 to $375,000 annually, he said.
Though he said it should be a last resort, Clardy said the town will also need to look at property taxes, reminding residents that the town gave a good faith tax rollback to residents last year. He also said that the last resort for cutting expenses is terminating jobs.
We are willing to do both if necessary, Clardy said.
Following up on a comment by the mayor concerning making a bond payment, Newton said that a bank representative had called him about the bond payments which he said were three payments of $25,000 behind. Newton said a payment had been sent to the bank, but that the town may have to look at increasing water and sewer fees to make the payments.
He also pointed out that the town had absorbed two water rate increases over the years without raising rates.
When asked if council had any comments, Councilman Cecil Cothran said, I regret the town is in this financial situation, and promised to do what is necessary for the town.
Councilman Greg Cole asked what Newton considered non-essential services to which Newton made some suggestions but said that it is up to council to decide.
Clardy said the town is cutting some nonessential services such as not allowing police officers living out of town to take their vehicles home and changes in holiday pay which Clardy said will save about $17,000.
Newton suggested that all departments be looked at for possible cuts except the fire department which is all volunteer.
Newton said that 901 out of 900 people tell me there are too many people in administration.
He suggested town officials pick and choose which areas to cut and note the harm being done.
Clardy said the town will need to look at expenses and rates and balance the scales.
Responding to a question by Councilman Cole, Newton said the town needs to find an auditor as fast as you possibly can.
Clardy said he will propose meeting with potential auditors at the next regular meeting of council.
Councilman Otis Scott said, Im sorry if I let those citizens down. I will do everything I can. I take full responsibility.
Councilman David Harvell also said that the situation was the responsibility of the council. I am looking forward to getting out of debt, he said.
Clardy said they all share responsibility for the situation and that regardless of which side you are on, This is our town. He said the situation could be a constructive example for other municipalities facing similar circumstances.
He also said the town should put politics aside and that the business of the town should be first.
The next meeting of Council will be Tuesday, January 31, at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Center auditorium.
The meeting will allow public comment where council will listen and to the best of our ability answer questions, Clardy said. We want to listen to the residents and give them the opportunity to vent.
Clardy said a letter will be sent to all of the towns water customers addressing the towns financial status and the steps being taken to address the situation.
Following the meeting, Clardy said It was a very good start.
During a special recognition program held at Beaverdam Baptist Church Sunday, retired educator and mission leader Wayne Rogers was recognized for his dedication to missions service in Kentucky.
Rev. Ernest Boggs, Director of Missions for the Upper Cumberland Association in Harlan, Kentucky, named Rogers a Kentucky Colonel, the highest honor which can be given by the Governor of Kentucky.
Rev. Boggs told of his work with the Beaverdam mission team to construct and make improvements to buildings in the Association Camp.
The men and women in the Beaverdam Bapist church seem to have grasped what our Lord Jesus said. They have been several places on mission. They have made friends for their Church and The Lord Jesus Christ, Boggs said.
After asking those who had been on a mission trip to Kentucky to stand, Boggs said, There is one team that has gotten hold of my heart the last few years. One of the men in that team is a man we have learned to love dearly.
The highest honor we in Kentucky. can bestow upon a person for their caring for others is to make them a Kentucky Colonel, he said.
He then bestowed the honor upon Rogers.
He called Rogers a man of God, a leader, and a person concerned about education and missions in the community, state and nation.
Following the presentation, there was a standing ovation by those in attendance.
Pictures were then taken of Rogers, family members and those who have participated in missionary services in Kentucky with the Beaverdam Baptist Church missions team.
A Williamston man was arrested after he allegedly struck a female with his vehicle in the parking lot of a local restaurant recently.
Justin Waymon Mahaffey, 19, 3 Durham Dr., Williamston, was arrested Jan. 11 for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and violation of beginners permit after running over Kayla Gray Lewis in the parking lot of the Clock Drive-in, 307 East Main St.
Officers were dispatched to the location where they found the victim Lewis, of 5 Weeping Hollow Road, Piedmont, on the ground. Reports state officers were told she had been run over by a Chevrolet Caprice Classic and that the driver had left the area. Reports state that following an argument with his ex-girlfriend, Mahaffey attempted to leave the parking lot and the victim was walking toward the vehicle when she was struck with the drivers side of his car, knocking her to the ground where the vehicle ran over her left foot and leg. The driver then left the scene. The driver, Mahaffey, later appeared at the Williamston Police Department where he was advised of his rights and a written statement was obtained. Sgt. Z. E. Gregory, C. J. Sanders investigated.
Other incidents investigated recently include:
Jan. 19 - Gregory Price Craine, 31, 11 Goodrich St., Pelzer, was arrested for disregarding a stop sign and driving under suspension after a tan Cadillac was observed running the stop sign at the intersection of Gossett St. and Main St. C. J. Sanders investigated.
Jan. 9 - Donna Lee Ginn, 36, 109 L. St., Williamston reported a transfer truck had run over her mailbox causing $15 in damage. Sgt. Z. E. Gregory investigated.
Jan. 8 - Priority Auto Sales, 200 Greenville Dr., Williamston, reported paint scratched on four vehicles parked at the location causing $600 in damage. Lt. J. T. Motes investigated.
Jan. 12 - Kevin Burton Graham, 25, 114 Windfield Hill Rd., Williamston, was arrested for driving under suspension and no insurance. J. R. McCauley II investigated.
Jan. 12 - Kasey Bryan Griswold, 24, Belton Farm Rd., Belton was arrested for driving under suspension after a vehicle was observed on Roberts Blvd. J. R. McCauley II investigated.
Jan. 12 - City Scooters, 602 Greenville Dr., Williamston, reported forced entry gained by taking screws out of the side of the building and bending back the tin and knocking out the inner wall causing $300 in damage. Power to the building was also cut in an attempt to bypass the alarm. Nothing was reported missing. J. T. Bauer, Lt. J. T. Motes investigated.
Jan. 13 - An employee of PayDay, USA, 18 Main St., Williamston, Jennifer Clester, 29, 198 Compton Rd., Belton, was arrested for breach of trust after allegedly taking checks and cash totaling $10,000. Reports state payments from October 2004 to present were taken from customers and kept. P. D. Marter, Capt. K. P. Evatt investigated.
Jan. 14 - Kellie Leigh Chapman, 32, 600 North Hamilton St., Apt. 152, Williamston, reported an attempted break-in. Forced entry was attempted through the back door, causing $300 in damage. Sgt. A. B. Singleton investigated.
Jan. 6 - Eugene Henry, 76, 6 Crescent Dr., Williamston, was arrested for reckless driving after his vehicle caused heavy damage estimated at $20,000, to a building at 208 Greenville Dr. J. R. McCauley II investigated.
Jan. 8 - Robert Ernest Rigdon, 53, 6 Lopez St., Pelzer, was arrested for driving under suspension after a 1989 Ford Probe was observed driving left of center on East Carolina St.. T. A. Call investigated.
Jan. 9 - Cynthia Davis, 34, 15 E 4th St., Williamston, reported that two white males, both in their thirties, in a van made racial remarks and threatened to beat up a 16 year old juvenile in the area of Pelzer Ave. and Greenville Dr. P. D. Marter investigated.
Anderson County Sheriffs deputies investigated the following incidents in the Williamston, Pelzer and Piedmont area:
Jan. 13 R. S. Turner responded to the Sav-Way store in Pelzer where Kimberly Perry, store owner, reported her suspicions that an employee, Christopher Parris, had stolen lottery tickets and possibly forged credit card receipts of customers. Reports state Perry, 28, was contacted at his home on Dendy Street, and eventually admitted the charges. He was subsequently arrested on an outstanding DUS/failure to appear warrant and transported to ACDC.???
Jan.16 G. J. Turner responded to a complaint by Harry Landberg that his 4 wheeler had been stolen. The vehicle is described as an orange 1992 Suzuki 250 valued at $2500. It was taken from 335 Siegler Rd.
Jan.18 D. E. Tench received a report from Gregory Paige that his fathers vacated house had been broken into and a 52 inch and 27 inch TV taken. A collection of die cast model cars was also stolen from another building on the property.
Jan. 14 W.T. Cunningham investigated a report of burglary at 1323 Shiloh Church Rd., where Steven McDaniel stated that a Yamaha Raptor ATV, black and red, was stolen from his garage, along with a Snap-On plasma cutter, and a 6X10 black utility trailer. Total value of all the items was approximately $11,500.
Jan. 16 D. E. Tench responded to 102 Halter Dr., where Michael Miller, of Checker Lube, the business located at that location, stated that someone had kicked in a window in the overhead door and entered the business. Stolen were more than $646 cash, $266 in checks, and more than $1150 in credit card receipts.
Jan. 17 D.W. Davis investigated a complaint of grand larceny from Billy Dunn that two men driving a blue van had come to the construction site at 138 Reserve Drive, pretending to be authorized to repair the chimney. Instead, they loaded two boxes of river rock valued at $1,400 into the van and left.
Jan.17 J. A. Frazier stopped a vehicle for a safety violation at River Road and I-85. Malisa Gail Chapman, 40, of 226 Chafin Road, was arrested for DUS and transported to ACDC.
Jan. 18 J.G. Stevens responded to 310 Willow Dr., where David Dorn, Jr. reported that a utility trailer had been stolen from his yard. Dorn awoke to noise coming from his yard, and saw two white males hooking the trailer to a faded red pickup truck. The trailer was valued at $1200.
Jan. 18 R.W. Miller received a complaint from Francis Sandefur, of 109 Arthur Dr., that her purse had been stolen from her home.
Jan. 16 A. Digirolamo responded to 301 Webb Road to the location for Carolina International trucks. Junior Allen Hall reported the theft of a 2002 Freight Liner truck valued at $37,000.
Jan.18 G. J. Turner responded to a construction site on Anderson Hwy. where Duke Power is building a substation. Todd Stevenson of Duke Power reported the theft of 70 roller blocks and two reels of copper wire, with a total value of $1600.
Palmetto Elementary Principal Jerome Hudson has been named 2006 S.C. National Distinguished Elementary Principal of the Year. He was honored recently at a special presentation by the SC Association of School Administrators at Hilton Head Island. Later this year, Hudson will travel to Washington, DC for another ceremony of recognition.
Hudson has 15 years experience as a school principal and the last 12 of those years have been at Palmetto Elementary. He inspires the faculty, staff and parents to become a family of learners, always focusing on what is best for students.
He sets high expectations with student achievement as the primary focus. Last year the school was a finalist for Carolina First Palmettos Finest, and this year the school has once again been named among the Palmettos Finest finalists.
This year the school theme is Palmetto Passports, and Hudson reminds students each morning during announcements, Remember that Palmetto Elementary is your Passport to Success.
The principals favorite quote by his mother is Silver and gold might fade away, but a good education will never decay.
Hudsons wife, Charlene Hudson teaches at Wren High. They have three children, Dylan, Wesley, and Jada.
I am proud of Mr. Hudsons many achievements, states Dr. Wayne Fowler, Superintendent for Anderson One. He has developed Palmetto Elementary School into one of the finest schools in the state. He certainly deserves recognition as National Distinguished Elementary Principal because of his instructional leadership at Palmetto Elementary.
Jane Harrison, Director of Elementary Education states, Anderson District One is extremely proud of Mr. Jerome Hudson and the leadership he brings. He is dedicated to his profession and committed to making a difference for children. He has set high standards for his students and enabled his teachers with training and necessary materials to allow for academic success.
Participants and winners in the Miss Woodmont pageant held Saturday at Woodmont High School were: (l-r) Dawn DeYoung; Alicia Mathis, 1st runner-up; Lindsey Chambers, Miss Woodmont and grand talent winner; Ashley Hawkins, 2nd runner-up; Rebecca Lazear; and Kimberly Roten.
By Stan Welch
Officials from Pelzer and West Pelzer met together Monday afternoon to hear about small town government from a representative of The Appalachian Council of Government. Much of what was said applied to another nearby town, though everyone was careful not to mention it by name.
Recently elected Pelzer Mayor Kenneth Davis, and Council members Tony Riddle and Sandra Ragsdale were on hand from Pelzer, along with West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton, and Council members Maida Kelly, Marshall King, and Pete Davis. The two town attorneys, Jim King and Carey Murphy, as well as Pelzer town manager Skip Watkins attended also.
Mike Sell, local government analyst for ACOG, was on hand to explain the various aspects of the strong mayor form of government, which both towns have adopted. Under the 1975 Home Rule Act, there are three forms of local government, including Mayor/ Council (strong mayor), Council (weak mayor), and Council/manager.
Under the strong mayor form, the mayor serves as the Towns chief administrator, overseeing the day to day operations of the town. That authority has occasionally been challenged by West Pelzer Council members, who have sought to investigate certain aspects of the Towns operations, as well as seeking to obtain information on citizens of the town, such as who is behind on taxes or water bills.
Paxton has challenged those efforts in the past, citing her position as administrator. Sell gave her little comfort, saying that any individual member of the Town Council has the authority to perform just such investigations and inquiries. Sell, however, stressed the importance of both courtesy and communication between Council members. Do you have to tell the Mayor youre looking into something? No. But if you find enough to warrant further investigation, then it is simple courtesy to inform the Mayor, especially since it is their responsibility at that time.
Someone has a dead dog in front of their house. They call a Council member and tell them that theyve called town hall ten times, and that dog is still out there in the street. The Council member can do one of three things. What they should do is call the mayor and say please take care of this as soon as possible. Or they can go stomping into town hall and tell the clerk to drop everything and get that dog picked up. Thats exactly what they shouldnt do, because now theyre supervising town employees, which is not in their power. Or they can go to the town hall and inform the clerk or whoever about the situation and suggest that its a problem that needs to be taken care of. Basically, were talking about courtesy and communication.
Sell went on to say that if a Council is bickering all the time, The ones who suffer are the citizens, because you dont get anything done for the town. If you get into that kind of internal warfare, its hard to get anything done.
The following information was presented to Pelzer and West Pelzer officials attending an Appalachian Council of Government work session this week as a thought provoking handout. The ACOG flyer read:
Why should municipal finance be difficult? Why make tough choices? Here are some tips for the elected official who is hell-bent on destroying the Towns financial health.
1. Promise that you will never raise a fee or tax.
Points to remember: The voters will like you.
Its more important to be popular than to be responsible.
Sound business principles have no place in local politics.
You will be out of office when the big tax and fee increase comes.
2. Balance your budget with funny money.
Points to remember: The South Carolina Constitution says that your budget must balance but,
You can be very optimistic with your revenue projections.
You can be very unrealistic with your expenditure projections.
Nobody will know that you had a bad budget until next years audit (or until you run out of money.)
3. Ignore your budget once you pass it.
You have passed the budget, so dont worry about it again until next year.
Practice saying YES.
Yes, you may have that new police car.
Yes, you may have a raise.
Yes, we can give big Christmas bonuses even if we forgot to put them in the budget.
Make a habit of unbudgeted expenditures.
Never, ever amend your budget as a result of changing financial conditions.
4. Borrow from the state and Federal government to meet your payroll.
When your cash flow begins to get really bad:
Do not remit the monthly court fines to the state treasurer.
Do not submit weekly and monthly payroll taxes and reports (state and federal withholding, RCA, S.C. Retirement etc) to the state and U.S. Treasury.
You will be breaking the law, you may have personal liability, the town may have its Aid to Subdivision payments frozen, you will accrue substantial federal fines and penalties, the IRS may put a lien on all municipal property, your employees will suffer, but at least you will have a little more cash.
5. When you begin to run out of money, empty your reserve funds.
As the creditors are knocking on your door:
Transfer money from utilities to the General fund or transfer from the General fund to your utilities (the old shell game).
Empty all hank accounts, cemetery funds, meter deposit accounts, reserve accounts, and RDA water and sewer bond depreciation and cushion fund accounts.
The holders of your various bonds could conceivably call their bonds due. The Rural Development Administration could refuse all future water and sewer grants and loans, but you have bought yourself another couple of weeks.
6. Borrow from the bank, even if you cant pay it back.
Municipalities may only borrow through revenue bonds, general obligation bonds and tax anticipation notes. Tax anticipation notes must be paid back by March 15 of the current fiscal year, but...
Roll-over tax anticipation notes from one year to the next. Get a line of credit. Get a business loan. The loans arent legal and the local bank could get stuck with uncollectible loans, but thats not your problem. Whats more, you are borrowing from this years taxes to pay off last years debts and you are utilizing illegal loans to do it. Thats creativity!
7. When the finances become a crisis, deny it all.
When it all hits the fan, when the newspapers are calling you, when the South Carolina Treasurers Office is calling you, when public services are threatened with shutdown and employees are leaving, when you have accumulated several months worth of bills, deny everything.
Call it a temporary cash flow problem. Blame it on the economy. Blame it on the mayor, administrator or your fellow council members. Call it over reaction by the media.
If all else fails, say that you are surprised and that you didnt know things were this bad.
Somebody in town just might believe you... and always remember that its not YOUR money.
By Stan Welch
Plans by Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston to defray expenses incurred by recent land purchases by using monies generated from the sale of the old Tri-County Regional Landfill site may have hit a snag.
Last fall, three members of a family which claims to own the only access to the property issued a letter to the three Counties involved, informing them There is no entry way to this property at the present time, except our private drive, and we have never been compensated in any way for the use of our private drive, even though we have asked.
Joe Kelly, father of James Kelly and Juanita Durham, said in a recent interview that a suit brought by Pickens County to take the road under eminent domain was dismissed by a judge in 2000.
We sent all the counties a letter way back in 1990 or 91 when the word got out about the landfill, telling them they had no entry way to that property. Ive been fighting this for over 13 years, and they still dont have a road in there. If they sell it to a developer like they say, they still wont have one until my family gets paid for it.
Kelly says he believes that the stress of the fight over his property helped cause significant health problems he has suffered in recent years. They spent over $137,000 buying four acres of land with a house and a single wide trailer on it back behind me. But when I asked for $85,000 for my acre and a half and a much better house than either of those, they turned me down and eventually offered me less than the tax value on my place.
The 512 acre site was originally purchased in 1991 as the proposed location for a regional landfill designed to serve Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties. After several years of seeking a permit, the site was denied, as a result of efforts by Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston and Council member Clint Wright to sell the Countys Big Creek Landfill to Allied Waste, Inc, and have it permitted as a regional landfill. Those efforts killed the Tri-County project; and under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement, left the property in the hands of Oconee County.
A long legal battle ensued, and was settled in fall of 2004, with all three Counties agreeing to share equally in the proceeds of the propertys eventual sale. Preston has stated in recent months that part of those proceeds will be used to defray the costs of the purchase of a 46+ acre tract in Powdersville that is slated for a park. He also said at that time that the property would appraise at between $15- $25,000 per acre. It appears, however, based on the letter from Kelly that sale of the land may face significant problems.
Kellys letter goes on to say that he and his family expect compensation for the prior use of their road, especially Pickens County, which has used it for daily access to a twenty acre wastewater treatment plant they have built on the site.
Its hard to own something and have somebody trying to take it away. I tell you, fighting the county is a rough job, said Kelly.
Assistant Anderson County Administrator Michael Cunningham said he was unaware of the status of the property and any potential sale. The Tri-County deal was before I came to Anderson County, so I honestly dont know the status of the sale of that property.
Solid Waste Director Vic Carpenter had a similar response, saying that the TRL project lived and died before his arrival, but adding his belief that one of the original problems with the site had always been one of access. That would tend to confirm the report that there may be such a problem now. Efforts to reach County Administrator Joey Preston for comment were unsuccessful.
By Stan Welch
Documents obtained by The Journal from the SCDOT fail to provide evidence of any specific or technical mass transit experience or expertise on the part Anderson Countys consultant on such matters.
C&S Consulting Group, Inc., owned by State Representative John L. Scott, Jr. and his wife Joan Scott, serves as the Countys mass transit consultant. The firm billed the county more than $60,000 for its efforts last year alone. Yet the documentation provided by the Scotts to the SCDOT, and recently obtained by The Journal under the SCFOIA, shows no specific evidence of training or expertise in that field.
While C&S was certified by SCDOT as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) in 2004, the qualifications for that designation are remarkably casual. In a cover letter which accompanied the information received from SCDOT, Mr. Benjamin Byrd, the FOIA officer, reported that The South Carolina Unified Certification Program was not implemented until April of 2004.
The SCUCP is described by SCDOT as a one stop shop for those seeking certification as DBEs, which are in turn assured of access to formula determined percentages of federal funds spent on transportation. Byrd made that statement in order to explain why the SCUCP application was not the one provided. Instead, a less comprehensive form previously used by the state was provided.
The letter issued by SCDOT to Joan Scott, certifying the company as a DBE, was issued on June 16, 2004, however. Furthermore, according to County Council meeting minutes, C&S Consulting Group, Inc. was employed by the County in August of 2003.
Byrds cover letter also states that SCDOT administers its DBE program in accordance with federal regulations, specifically, 49CFR. Pursuant to. . . the regulation, SCDOT requires licenses and other credentials only if they are also required by the State. Therefore, no list of requirements is included.
The State, essentially, requires no evidence of qualification beyond what the federal government requires; subsequently, SCDOT requires no such evidence, either.
The only documentation provided in support of the Scotts application for DBE status was provided by them. One such document was an affidavit of disadvantage, a form document which stated, essentially, that they were part of a minority, recognized by the Small Business Administration as being disadvantaged. The sworn affidavit also lists some of those minorities, such as blacks, women, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans and sub-Continent Asian Americans.
Disadvantaged is described by the affidavit as being a member of such a minority whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities . . . The document points out that membership in the given minority, and not ones individual qualities is what establishes the disadvantage.
The Journals request for documentation of technical expertise or experience in the field of mass transit evoked some additional information. Rep. Scott received two awards in 1999 in the field of transportation: one was the Director of Mass Transit/SCDOT Division award. Glennith Johnson is the director of mass transit for SCDOT and oversees the department that issued that award. Johnson stated that he was not the head of the mass transit department in 1999, but added that such an award is no longer given. Im sure the recipient made some contribution to the SCDOT in order to receive the award, said Johnson.
The other award presented to Scott was Legislator of the Year by the Transportation Association of South Carolina. The TASC is a conglomeration of private business and public agencies and interests which formed a professional association in 1981.
A year after receiving the awards, Scott and his wife incorporated their consulting firm, along with a third partner, Dr. Pierre H. Barakat, whose qualifications as provided by the Scotts, include being a professor in health care finance, and information systems. He is referred to as the chief consultant, and his expertise is in organizational and marketing review principals with an established record in the development and implementation of management programs while complying to required schedules.
Rep. Scotts expertise in the field of mass transit apparently reposes in his reception of the awards mentioned above. No other technical or specific qualifications in the field are provided in the documents obtained. Joan Scott, who spent 22 years in the insurance business before joining her husbands real estate firm in 1998, describes her role as in strategic planning, coordinating day to day activities, and ensuring good business practices to compete fairly in an increasingly cutting edge market for our local and state mass transit systems.
Attorney General Henry McMaster, along with Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis, Pickens County Sheriff David Stone, S.C. Adjutant General Stan Spears, and a host of other state and local law enforcement officials from across the Upstate, participated in the largest Methamphetamine bust and drug dealer roundup in the states history.
Forty defendants involved in the Upstate drug ring were indicted by the state grand jury on December 13, 2005. The indictments were sealed while the investigation led authorities through a complex web of top-level drug dealers and their associates. The indictments were unsealed on Friday, January 19, 2006.
On Sunday, January 22, 2006, state and local law enforcement officials conducted surprise raids at locations across the Upstate and began taking the indicted defendants into custody. The defendants will be prosecuted by the office of the Attorney General Henry McMaster.
A Piedmont man, Jason Edward Bagwell, 25 of 234 Chafin Road, was among persons arrested from Anderson, Greenville, Easley, Travelers Rest, Atlanta Seneca and other towns.
The drug ring concentrated mainly on Meth Ice, which is a pure, potent, and professionally manufactured form of Methamphetamine. Ice is produced in superlabs, commonly at a rate of ten pounds in a 24-hour period. Ice is a very dangerous form of Meth that is often produced in foreign countries such as Mexico, smuggled into the United States, and sold at tremendous profit.
The indictments cover a total of 92 separate charges against the 40 defendants. The possible fines allowable by law on all charges could total as high as $11,613,500.
The indictments allege that during the period January 2005 to December 2005, law enforcement officials from as many as ten agencies; state, local and federal, seized in excess of 37.88 lbs. of Meth Ice, 24 ounces of cocaine, 290 tablets of Ecstasy, and 820 pounds of marijuana in a number of busts throughout the upstate.
Law enforcement also seized $213,750 in cash, $38,896 in assets that have been sold, and $22,000 in assets that are currently being used in the war on Meth. Items seized and now being utilized by law enforcement include: a motorcycle, a GMC Yukon, a gas powered generator, an enclosed trailer, a car hauler, and several televisions.
This is the biggest, most significant Meth bust in our states history, but it is only a single battle in a widening war against this dangerous drug, said McMaster. This record-setting bust represents a tremendous effort between numerous law enforcement agencies. The level of cooperation and collaboration at all levels was extraordinary, and has resulted in a major victory in our war on Meth.
Meth is the single largest and fastest growing drug threat facing our state, added McMaster.
No trial dates for any of the defendants have been set.
McMaster stressed that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
Agencies participating in this case include: the State Law Enforcement Division, the Greenville County Sheriffs Office, the Pickens County Sheriffs Office, the Anderson County Sheriffs Office, the Oconee County Sheriffs Office, the Laurens County Sheriffs Office, the Spartanburg County Sheriffs Office, the Easley Police Department, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Governors Counter Drug Task Force / S.C. National Guard.