(0608) Week of Feb. 6, 2008
West Pelzer woman
works last day in the mill - After 57 years on the job
After 57 years on the job
It has been seven years since Helen Taylor was introduced to Journal readers in November of 2000. She had 50 years on her job at Mount Vernon Mill and still loved coming to work every day.
At that time, the West Pelzer resident said she could retire and stay home, do housework, cleanup or watch TV, but added, I can get it later.
Later came last week as Taylor worked her last day on the clock on January 25.
Ive really enjoyed working here, she said before starting her last day on the first shift job in the spinning room, a job she has held for more than 57 years.
Promiently displayed in the Mills lobby are photographs of everyone working the three shifts at the mill August 30, 1955.
Taylor is one of those in the photograph. At the time she was working on the third shift. Those were the good old days, she said.
Of the several hundred employees in the photos, Taylor is the last one to leave the mill.
Her fellow employees have retired. Some have died. She celebrated her 79th birthday on Sunday.
Prior to her retirement, she was still putting in a full shift, often six or seven days straight.
We have just cut back lately, she said, in the last few months.
She began her career in textiles at age 16, working for American Spinning in Greenville. Her mother taught her the job.
She worked at the Kendall Pelzer Plant for about six months before going to work at Mount Vernon where she worked third shift for 18 years and second shift for several years before getting her first shift job.
Her job on the spinning machines included a lot of walking and a lot of bosses over the years. Ive had a slew, she said.
Mount Vernon is a good place to work. They always run, she said referring to the decline of textiles plants in the U. S.
My supervisor (Randall Waters) is real nice and Mr. Miles (plant manager) is a good man to work with.
Before her last eight hour shift she said, I enjoy coming to work every morning. Its hard but I enjoy it. Everything is hard in this world, but you have to do it if you are to accomplish anything.
She said she is praying this plant will stay and when asked how they will get along with her not being there, she responded, Theyll manage.
Williamston Town Council took action to address accounting software problems during their meeting Monday. They also received information on a proposal to review the towns water system and a comprehensive plan outlining the towns future.
Meeting with the minimum for a quorum, Council tabled several items because they were placed on the agenda by Mayor Phillip Clardy who was absent to be home with his ailing father. Councilman Otis Scott, who recently underwent open heart surgery, was also absent. Councilman David Harvell conducted the meeting.
One of the first items addressed was software problems with the Smith Data accounting software being used by the Town. According to town officials, numerous problems keep coming up with the software.
Councilman Marion Middleton said the town needs to put the company on notice by having the mayor or a representative write a letter listing every problem they have with the software and give them 30 days to cure. Council agreed 3-0.
David West, a representative of SCV Camp 43, appeared before council with a proposal for the towns civil war cannon. West was asked by Council to contact Anderson County and return with a report at the next meeting of Council.
A report on policy and procedures was tabled to the next meeting.
A draft of the towns comprehensive plan was presented to Council by Jim Simpson, chairman of the towns planning commission.
The plan is the final draft of months of hard work by the planning committee with the help of Chip Bentley, Simpson said.
He thanked Council for allowing Bentley, who works with the Appalachian Council of Governments, to help with the document.
According to Simpson, it is a strong comprehensive plan that will allow the town to go forward over the next couple of years and brings the town in line with state guidelines.
The document was accepted as information and is expected to be voted on in the near future. A public hearing will also be held to allow the public to ask questions or make comments before final approval.
Councilman Middleton stated that the plan is An excellent document, very clear.
A good plan is the essence of growing, he said.
Simpson responded, It also provides the basis for the downtown redevelopment project and instilling community pride including the perception of the outside world that has taken a less than desirable approach to us.
This is the first step, from one end of town to the other, for a uniform Williamston, he said, before stating that the planning commission endorses the document.
The draft comprehensive plan was accepted by Council as information.
Discussion on a water rate study was tabled until the next meeting.
Sonya Harrison of Goldie and Associates presented a proposal for a study of the towns water system.
The proposal calls for site visits to evaluate the existing system, review of problem areas, review of the system map, conduct a hydraulic analysis of the system, coordinated hydrant flow tests for calibration of a hydraulic model and review analysis and make recommendations for system improvements. The system will also be placed on a CAD system.
Harrison quoted a cost of $15,000 for the evaluation. The proposal was accepted as information.
Councilman Middleton said that the study is a way to plan ahead for possible problems with the towns system before they break and to provide better water pressure, water lines and better service.
Discussion of an open government tour sponsored by the mayors office was tabled.
There was some discussion on how council could review applications for the town administrator job currently being advertised.
Town Attorney Richard Thompson advised that councilmen could look at the applications as long as they were kept confidential, kept at town hall and there was not a quorum of council present when they were being reviewed.
They have received seven or eight applications for the position.
The item was tabled for future discussion.
Councilman Carthel Crout stated that the town needs to begin making preparations for the town election including selection of an election commission.
Council agreed to place the topic on the agenda for the March 3 meeting.
Crout also said the town needs to be ready for the 2008-2009 budget process. The new budget is to be approved by June 30.
We cant wait until we have to have two or three meeting to get it finished, he said. I think we need to have work sessions beginning in March.
Acting on a motion by Crout, Council agreed to set dates for March work sessions at the Feb. 18 meeting of Council.
Acting on a recommendation of Williamston Police Chief David Baker, Council unanimously agreed to allow two older model police vehicles to be donated to the Career and Technology Center.
Baker said one could be repaired and the other used for parts. Three programs at the CTC could benefit from the donation including the auto repair and law enforcement technology programs, he said.
Council then went into executive session to hear a report on contracts for land for the towns sewer application process.
Upon returning to open session, Councilman Harvell announced no action was taken.
During public comments, Faye Cooley, of the Haven of Rest in Williamston, asked Council to consider changing the town ordinance related to a $5 yard sale fee. Cooley said an elderly lady recently complained to them about the fee as she was planning a yard sale to help raise money to pay for medical expenses.
She stated she had a list of 126 people who agreed that the ordinance needed to be changed.
You are punishing everybody for persons having a yard sale continously, she said.
Cooley suggested having the fee apply to persons having two or more yard sales within a certain time period.
Several area fire departments have been approved for grants offered through the Volunteer Strategic Assistance and Fire Equipment Pilot Program. Local volunteer fire departments receiving grants included: Whitefield, Three and Twenty, Williamston, Hopewell, Belton and Honea Path.
According to Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison, the $30,000 awarded to to the WFD will be used to purchase new hose which he said they are in dire need of.
Williamston Fire Department will purchase new 5-inch hose for Engine 1, attack hose for all of the departments trucks and new nozzles. Chief Ellison said that the grant money from the State, secured through Rep. Dan Cooper, was very helpful because other Federal grant money could not be used for fire fighting equipment such as hoses.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal, which administrateres the program, received 406 applications totaling nearly $8 million of requests during the 30-day application period. This resulted in the validation and review of 224 applications. According to a new release, the nine-person Peer Review Panel worked for three days scoring the applications based upon the success criteria established by last years legislation.
The SC Firefighters Association has been awarded a $60,000 grant for the purpose of recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters and 104 fire departments statewide have been awarded grants based on their application requests.
Along with providing volunteer fire departments with funds to purchase critical equipment such as personal protective equipment, self-contained breathing equipment, and basic rescue and safety equipment, this pilot program provided a mechanism to enhance fire department participation in several required programs.
The process encouraged 25 departments to sign a state-wide mutual aid agreement, 25 departments joined the SC Firefighters Registration System and 10 departments to begin reporting to the SC Fire Incident Reporting System.
The response to this program helped identify the needs of South Carolinas volunteer fire departments and the necessity to continue this program into the future, officials stated in the news release.
In the upstate counties of Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg, the following volunteer fire departments were awarded grants.
Members of the Pelzer Historical Society are planning a regional Born in Pelzer Festival to be held Saturday, April 19. Legendary blues musician Mac Arnold, who was born in Pelzer, will perform a fund raising concert during the festival which will feature bikes, blues and barbecue.
The festival will be combined with the annual motorcycle fundraising event that has been sponsored by The Town of Pelzer for the past two years as a fundraiser for Pelzers children. Other special activities are also being planned.
Organizers are asking for volunteers to help with preservation related projects needed to get the town ready for the festival.
Helpers are needed to do scraping, priming, and painting the outside of the Historic Pelzer Library and inside bathroom renovation. Some electrical work may also be needed.
Plans include having the Historic Pelzer Library open as a bookstore and coffee shop and having period antiques on display along with themes of Pelzer history.
Workdays scheduled include: Saturdays, March 1,8,15,22,29, and April 5 and 12. Times are 10a.m. to 3 p.m. with a one hour lunch break. Lunch will be provided by the Community of Pelzer Historical Society.
Anyone interested in helping by volunteering for any or all of the work days is invited, organizers said.
By Stan Welch
Danielle Marie Lee Bowen, 18 years old, charged with homicide by child abuse, following the death of the infant Haley on January 8, remains in the Anderson County Detention Center, after being denied bail at a recent preliminary hearing, which she chose not to attend.
The case is now scheduled to go before the grand jury. The childs father, Douglas Wilson, was at work at the time of the incident, during which Bowen allegedly inflicted fatal injuries by stepping on the childs chest, as well as slapping and choking her. Bowen has denied that, saying that she accidentally stepped on her child while running after the older sibling.
According to published reports, Assistant Coroner Don McCown said the deceased child did not appear to be suffering from shaken child syndrome.
Bowens other child, Samuel, was taken into protective custody by DSS at the time of the incident and was to be placed with Wilsons grandmother for the time being.
According to the warrant in the case, Bowen stepped on Haleys chest, causing fatal internal injuries, as well as slapping and choking her. Haley was transported to Greenville Memorial Hospital where she was reportedly placed on life support equipment for a time, before being removed from that equipment.
According to the ACSO incident report filed by Deputy K.D. Pigman, he was dispatched to the residence at 120 Bellview Circle Court in West Pelzer in response to a report of a non-responsive infant. No other details are provided by the report.
By Stan Welch
Despite the testimony of several Williamston citizens, former mayor Marion Middleton, Sr. was again denied a pardon last week for the crimes he committed during his administration.
Middleton Sr. journeyed to Columbia to plead his case before the South Carolina Department of Pardons, Probation, and Parole. He is seeking a pardon for his conviction on charges of embezzlement. Those charges arose after his defeat for the Mayors office by incumbent mayor Phillip Clardy, and after Clardy occupied the office.
A member of the current Town Council, Carthel Crout, was on hand to speak in behalf of Middleton. Crout referred to his twenty five year friendship with Middleton, saying, In all that time I have never known him to be anything but genuine, straightforward and honest. He has publicly apologized several times for his actions. Last year, the Town Council passed a resolution supporting his request for a pardon. I would ask that this board grant that pardon.
The Town Council declined to consider such a resolution this year.
Also on hand in support of Middletons request was local businessman and civic leader George Roberts. Roberts referred to Middletons military record, during which Middleton was wounded and also honored for bravery. He was an educator for thirty years and served our town as mayor for twenty eight years. He has given over fifty five years of service to his country and his community. If you cannot grant this pardon for his benefit, then do it for his grandchildren.
Charles Shupe spoke briefly to the board as well, asking that they grant the pardon as well.
Middleton also spoke, telling the Board that he wants the pardon because he is tired of his grandchildren having to hear about his record. He added that he has been a model citizen since his conviction. I am not a threat to society. I have no ulterior motives or political ambitions. I have worked hard to give back to my community and I would like to get this pardon while I am still alive.
Despite the pleas entered on his behalf, Middleton, 78 years old, was again denied what he had sought.
By Stan Welch
West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton has a considerably different view of the requests she made of the towns Planning Commission than the commissions members have.
At last weeks Planning Commission meeting, references were made to the Mayors earlier request that the Commission review the Towns ordinances and update them. Paxton says that while some ordinances were discussed at the Commissions November meeting, which she attended, she never asked the Commission to update the ordinances. For starters, they simply dont have that authority under law. That authority lies solely with the Mayor and the Town Council. Only we can pass, repeal or amend ordinances. So I would never ask the Commission to do that. We talked about some ordinances, like those dealing with when people can put out their garbage cans and such, but thats all we did was talk about them.
Mayor Paxton says she presented the Commissions secretary Jackie Durham with a formal letter asking that the Commission review and update the Towns comprehensive land use plan, not the ordinances. She presented that letter at the November meeting of the Town Council, held two weeks before the Planning Commission meeting later that month. That letter stated clearly what I asked for of the Commission, says the Mayor.
Commission secretary Jackie Durham also questioned that request. Wouldnt this be the job of the Mayor and Council? Why should we do this?
Another source of confusion between the Mayor and the Commission concerns a town survey which is part of the comprehensive land use plan. At the most recent meeting of the Planning Commission, Chairman Linda Lozano said that Mayor Paxton was supposed to have either prepared or conducted a survey in the town, seeking input into what the citizens thought should be included in the land use plan.
Since we were basically meeting tonight to go over the survey the Mayor was supposed to have for us, I dont know if we even need to meet, said Durham at the meeting earlier this month.
Paxton says that she discussed a new survey with the Commission members because the entire land use plan was so outdated that it needed to be completely revamped, including a new survey.
The information we have currently is essentially useless. I told the Commission members that I had conducted a public survey since becoming Mayor, but that it wasnt related to land use. I told them I would help them if I could, but I never told them I would do the survey. Thats their responsibility, not mine. I have plenty of other things to do as Mayor. So where they got the idea that I was going to take care of that for them is beyond me.
The Mayor also said that a citizen who approached the commission or one of its members concerning the legality of replacing a mobile home on his mothers property with a single unit apartment is welcome to talk to the Commission. Certainly he can ask them questions, but they have no authority to give him a ruling. We have a zoning director and that is his responsibility. Any decision would come from him.
By Stan Welch
The battle between some members of the Anderson County Council and County Administrator Joey Preston over access to public information continues and is headed for a showdown of sorts this week.
Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, whose protracted battle with Preston over the issue of public information has reached as high as the S.C. Supreme Court in recent weeks, has been joined by Councilman Bob Waldrep in recent weeks as he has insisted on access to financial records of the County.
Wilson has been engaged in this battle with Preston for virtually the entire length of her seven years on Council, while Waldrep has also expressed his concerns about the difficulties he has encountered in seeking public information.
The skirmishing has heated up considerably in recent weeks. Wilson has fired off a series of Freedom of Information requests as well as less formal requests for records.
Last week, accompanied by media, the two Council members visited the County finance offices and were turned away by County financial analyst Gina Humphries in their quest to check credit card records of the County.
On January 28, both Wilson and Waldrep sent a memo to Preston asking that the requested files be available on the morning of January 30 for their review. Preston responded with a memo stating that the earliest possible date would be Wednesday, February 6 and that the entire Council would be able to view the records at that time.
Wilson contacted S.C. Attorney General Henry McMasters office seeking an opinion upholding an elected County Councilmans right to review County credit card expenditures and back up including expense reports and receipts and that further, that Councilman has the right to bring a copier and paper to copy these records at his or her own expense.
Preston has previously informed Waldrep that to provide copies of the information he was seeking would cost $5000. Preston offered to waive the fee, however.
A television reporter from WSPA-7 was allowed access to the credit card receipts but was met by a group of department heads who watched as he worked with the documents. Preston has repeatedly intimated that those seeking the records, if left unattended, might misuse or mishandle them, even to the point of removing documents. He has also stated in written memos that any copying of the documents will be done by county staff and billed accordingly to the individuals receiving the copies.
As matters stood late Tuesday afternoon, the meeting to review the records was set for Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. The Journal was asked by Wilson and Waldrep to send a reporter and planned to do so. (Find out what happened by visiting our website online at www.thejournalonline.com.)
By Stan Welch
The efforts of Anderson County Council Chairman Michael Thompson to limit and control input from both the public as well as some members of Council, continued to gain momentum Tuesday night, as he again wielded a heavy and discriminating gavel while conducting the meeting.
Thompson continued to tighten his control of the meetings in regards to the publics ability to express its views to the Council. He began the meeting by handing out Roberts Rule of Order Parliamentary procedure manuals to each member of Council. He quickly followed up by challenging Rick Freemantle, the first member of the public to address Council.
Freemantle claimed to be speaking for the original Anderson County Taxpayers Association. When Thompson challenged his representation of that group, Freemantle challenged Thompson.
This ordinance you folks passed a while back says that any person being retained for compensation shall disclose the persons, groups or organizations that they represent. Since I am here voluntarily and not for compensation, I am not subject to the rule.
Thompson then allowed another speaker to talk for three minutes on an issue that was clearly personal and unrelated to any item on the agenda.
Councilman Greer addressed another measure designed to inhibit discussion of issues.
Council recently passed an amendment to an existing ordinance to require a unanimous vote to extend the time spent on discussing a given item. Greer opposed that amendment at the time, and Tuesday night, he again tried to amend the ordinance to allow a simple majority to approve the extension of discussion.
His amendment received the support of Councilwoman Cindy Wilson and Councilman Bob Waldrep, but was defeated 4-3. Greer then voted with the majority on the original ordinance, making the final vote 5-2.
Waldrep would later introduce an ordinance that would have removed virtually all obstacles to Council members seeking access to public records and information. Among changes his ordinance would have made in the way in which such information is handled were provisions that each member of Council would be vested and empowered by Council to demand and receive access of any public records . . . in the possession of any county employee, division head, county administrator or county employee.
The proposed ordinance would require compliance with a written request for such information from a Council member within 24 hours of receiving the request. Privileged information would also be accessible, with the responsibility for how the information was protected from publication falling upon the Council member.
Waldrep said that he had been surprised by the difficulties he had encountered in receiving public information from the administration.
This County has developed policies and obstructions to such access as I have found in no other venue, in no other county in South Carolina.
Waldrep went on to say that his interpretation of the position of the S.C. Supreme Court at a recent hearing on Councilwoman Cindy Wilsons writ of mandamus suit to force release of public information is that the Justices were very focused on County Councils role in authorizing Preston to restrict that flow of information.
My sense in listening to the arguments is that the Justices feel there is no question that we have the right to that information.
Waldrep called his proposed ordinance a vehicle to allow us to avoid further litigation, which would make everyone if not happy, then at least mutually miserable.
He admonished Council that without such a commitment to free access to the records the issue would linger. Freedom of Information laws and the responsibility of elected officials to perform their duties is not going to go away. Those demands from the public for us to do our jobs will not evaporate.
Councilman McAbee attacked the ordinance as being faulty and flawed, saying that whoever had drawn it was someone he wouldnt want doing his will. McAbee, who works in the trucking industry, said the proposed ordinance would cost the County money. This looks like a lawyers employment act. It defeats attorney client privilege.
Councilman Greers comments on the proposal were cut short when the time allotted for discussion expired. Greer sought an extension but was denied when McAbee objected. The attempt to amend that rule earlier in the evening to require only a simple majority to extend was brought into play.
Greer moved to suspend the rule, a motion that was defeated 4-3,with Ms. Wilson and Waldrep supporting it. Ms. Wilson then sought a point of privilege from the Chair, which was refused in favor of a vote on the question. The vote on the proposed ordinance itself was 2-4-1, with Wilson and Waldrep supporting, and Greer abstaining, with the other four Council members opposed.
Wilson then asked again for a point of privilege and was denied again.
Ms. Wilson then presented additional information concerning the credit card receipts and back up documents which have been the topic of controversy in recent weeks. She referred to the clear county policies in place requiring backup documentation for such expenses, but asked, How can we expect council to vote to rein in these expenses when some of these same members use the cards themselves, and use them extravagantly?
She also questioned how a Council member could travel to Chicago with his appointee to the economic development board while using county credit cards.
By what process of approval can this be done? I remember no vote to do this. Are there other cases where private citizens are traveling or dining at public expense? How can we know if we cant review the receipts and records?
When Wilsons time expired, she sought an extension of five minutes, and was denied. She made the request in the form of a motion, and Councilman Waldrep seconded it. This approach had Thompson stymied for a moment, but he quickly responded, saying that Wilsons motion was improper because she had not been recognized by the chair.
In other business, a request to rezone approximately 30 acres on Foster Road in Williamston was denied. The developers, Palmetto Acquisitions Limited LLC, were seeking to change the zoning from R-A (residential agricultural) to R-20 to allow a residential subdivision. According to county planning director Jeff Ricketson, the citizens advisory board for the area recommended denial of the request, although county staff and the planning and zoning board recommended approval. This project is consistent with land use in that area, said Ricketson. The advisory board seemed to be concerned that mobile homes might be brought in.
The vote was 3-4 to deny.
Several members of the Belton Fire Department were recognized for their efforts during a fire at an apartment complex on December 14 of last year. The firefighters entered a building, fought and extinguished a fire at the foot of the steps, then found and evacuated two victims who were unconscious. Both victims survived.
Five leaders from local FFA chapters also spoke about the organization and its works, as part of Councilman Greers recognition of the youth organization and the Countys designation of the week of Feb. 16 Feb. 23 as Future Farmers of America week.
Chairman Thompson ended the meeting much as he began it. He declined to receive citizens comments on non agenda items, citing the lateness of the hour for his decision. Comment by citizens was moved to the end of the agenda more than a year ago, after having a place at the top of the agenda previously.
Asked after the meeting for her comments on the credit card issue as well as on the manner in which meetings are now being conducted, Ms. Wilson simply smiled and said, What else can I say? How many ways can I ask for this information? As for Mr. Thompsons actions, it is never a proper decision to deny the public, whom we serve, to express their views of our performance, even if we find it unpleasant.
Anderson County Sheriffs Deputies investigated several alcohol related incidents, one in which a man was struck in the mouth at a loca l restaurant. Among incidents investigated were the following:
Jan. 29 J. T. Bowers responded to the Hardees restaurant at 904 Anderson St. Piedmont where Jeffrey Cole reported that he was inside the restaurant when two white males came inside. They were very irate and cursed the cashier, demanding their money back for a purchase made at the drive through. Cole said he followed them outside and one of them punched him in the mouth. He said they left in a green Ford Escort station wagon with SC tag # 512WXD. While talking to Cole, Bowers was notified that a vehicle of the same description had been reported as a suspicious vehicle at a nearby location. He drove to that location and found two brothers, Michael Kneece, WM, 22, 6, 185 pounds, brn/brn, of Liberty, and Stephen Kneece, WM, 17, 510", 220 pounds, brn/brn, of Pelzer fighting and yelling at each other. Reports state both men were found to be drinking. Cole later identified them both, and specified Michael as the one who punched him.
Both were arrested for a variety of charges including assault and battery, possession of marijuana, public disorderly conduct and a minor in possession of liquor. They were transported to ACDC.
Jan. 30 M.J. McClatchy was dispatched to 8 Anderson St. looking for a fugitive on a warrant. He found and arrested Angela Crain, WF, 40, 56", 180 pounds, blond/brn for service of four warrants outstanding against her.
Feb. 3 J.J. Jacobs responded to 304 Red Fern Court where William Boyd reported that his grandson had stolen his wallet from his residence. He said no one witnessed the theft but that the wallet was missing soon after he asked his grandson to leave following an argument. A witness provided a tag number of the vehicle the 31 year old grandson left in, but it came back registered to a different vehicle.
Feb. 3 T.W. Newman responded to 8 Archie St. where John Melton reported the break-in of his vehicle with damage estimated at $90.
Feb. 3 L. Finley responded to the Hickory Point convenience store at 2 N. Main St. where he found Raymond Gilliland asleep in his vehicle in the parking lot. He emitted a strong smell of alcohol and fell while trying to get out of the car. He was arrested for public disorderly conduct and transported to ACDC.
Feb. 3 R.D. Smith was dispatched to 24 Conner St. where Robert Phillips, of Iva, reported that someone had let the air out of his tire and pulled his brake line loose. Damage was estimated at $200.
Feb. 3 D.O. Hill responded to 199 Mill St. to the Midway Manor apartments where West Pelzer Police Officer C.R. Beddingfield was found on the scene. Nena Crothers, the complainant, reported that Beddingfield had been harassing her and demanding to be let in the apartment. The two had dated previously. Crothers is an employee at Anderson Countys Central Dispatch facility.
WPPD Chief Bernard Wilson told The Journal that the incident resulted in no charges or arrests. The officer had gone by to retrieve some personal property and she wouldnt let him in apparently. There was no altercation or physical confrontation. No action has been taken by Chief Wilson as a result. Beddingfield was placed on trespass notice by the ACSO, however.
Jan.30 K.D. Pigman responded to 5602 Hwy. 29N where Hal Bouchillon, of Bushes Auto Sales, reported that someone had broken into a vehicle on the lot. Nothing appeared to be stolen.
Jan. 30 J.T. Bowers met with Williamston Police officers and took custody of Michelle Messick, WF, 31, for service of two warrants for fraudulent checks.
By Stan Welch
Well, its about time! Finally! It should have been done long ago.
No, Im not talking about the sudden rush to clamber over the tailgate of the bandwagon by all the different media outlets that have suddenly become intrigued by the allegations and possibilities that perhaps, amidst all the bean counting done by Anderson County, a few(thousand) beans might have been miscounted? Better late than never, I always say.
And Im not talking about the realization finally dawning on those same media organizations that the Preston administrations view of the Freedom of Information Act and those who dare to invoke it, may be more designed for the administrations own use and convenience than for any actual compliance with the law.
Im not even talking about the growing public awareness that the majority of the County Council has the welfare of only one group at heart the welfare of the majority of Council.
No, Im talking about the emergence, finally, of a Council Chairman who will defend and uphold the laws of South Carolina, even if the State of South Carolina wont. Or doesnt care to. Or doesnt see any need to. Or maybe they just never intended the law in this case to be applied at the local level.
But these are just the quibblings of an adversarial media meant to weaken the appearance of strength and purpose which Chairman Michael Thompson showed so clearly within moments of assuming the gavel and the Chairmanship of the County Council. How can one have any problem with Thompsons demand that free American citizens, appearing in public session before a duly elected and legally convened authority, be required to provide personal and political information before being allowed to speak?
How can any honest American citizen resist the call by the Chair to profess ones membership in various groups in which the Chair and the Administration have a personal and specific interest? If you dont have anything to hide, then what is the problem with answering the question? Oooops! Sorry Mr. Preston, that probably shouldnt apply to matters like credit card records and bar tabs. But it definitely should apply to things like memberships in civic and political organizations.
Yessir! How else is Mr. Thompson going to control the riff raff that wanders into that Council chamber, calling itself citizens and taxpayers? So what if you are? Is that supposed to afford you some kind of special treatment by your elected officials and your employees? Thank goodness this Council now has a Chairman, and I feel sure a Vice Chairman as well, who is willing to drop the hammer on this riff raff, and teach them just how government works in Anderson County.
For example, under former chairman Bob Waldrep, weak sister that he clearly was, two varied organizations, both claiming to represent the taxpayers of Anderson County, reached new highs, or lows, depending on your view, of political gamesmanship. Mr. Waldrep, mistakenly thinking that such behavior had no place in the official activities and workings of the County Council, declined to let the County be drawn into the fight; perhaps because he felt his own association, however loose, with one of the two groups called for even greater efforts in pursuit of fairness and neutrality.
Not so Mr. Thompson, who struck swiftly and decisively, doing his best to deny an American citizen his right to speak to the County Council because of his membership in one of the two organizations at odds with one another. Seems to me, it would be unkind to connect the political discomfort inflicted on Mr. Thompson by one of the groups in recent months, to his decision to become the State of South Carolinas upstate enforcer. Almost certainly accurate, but unkind, nonetheless.
Clearly, this man knows what a gavel is for. Its to break stuff with! Like laws and freedoms, such as speech and assembly.
Finally, someone willing to put the Countys money where their mouth is, someone willing to place the County in jeopardy by getting involved in a silly internecine fight whose only impact, if any, will be known in June. Where have you been all this time, Mr. Thompson?
This is leadership! You could tell by how others of the Council waddled along behind the leader, like ducks to a pond.
Shrewdly, Mr. Thompson cloaked this assault on political freedom in the noblest of cloth, however. He was doing it to enforce state law requiring lobbyists to identify their clients so that, heaven forbid, elected officials shouldnt be misled as to whose concerns they were hearing. Why they might get the idea that their constituents actually wanted to be heard! His pompous declaration that the Council took an oath of office to uphold the state Constitution came very close to having the same effect as a large dose of syrup of ipecac induced vomiting.
Mr. Thompson has admittedly heard of the S.C. Constitution. It seems incomprehensible he hasnt heard of its BIG brother, the U.S. Constitution. You know, the one with the Bill of Rights and all that neat stuff?
Mr. Waldrep was so out of touch, he not only had heard of it, he actually believed it had a place in Anderson County. Whew, we got rid of him just in time!