(0708) Week of Feb. 12, 2008
reinstated after Council dissolves department
By Stan Welch
The West Pelzer Police Department resumed operations Tuesday at the instruction of Mayor Peggy Paxton and the advice of the town attorney, who said that the council decision Monday to dissolve the department must be done by ordinance.
Mayor Paxton reinstated the department after town attorney Carey Murphy informed the town that all town departments were established by ordinance and would have to be dissolved the same way.
Police Chief Bernard Wilson assured the citizens Wednesday that police protection will be provided as long as the department remains in place. The majority of Council that took this vote did not follow the proper procedure. Until and unless this department is legally disbanded, my officers and I intend to provide the best police protection that we can to the citizens of West Pelzer. I have had many people and business owners in town talk to me about this, and they are outraged at this decision.
During their regular monthly meeting Monday, three members of Council voted to dissolve the department. The town was without police protection, at least from its own force for approximately fourteen hours.
Paxton reinstated the department after Murphy, who missed Monday nights meeting due to illness, informed Councilman Joe Turner, who led the move to abolish the department, that all Town departments were established by ordinance and would have to be dissolved the same way.
That procedure requires a written numbered ordinance to be introduced; and same ordinance to receive two public readings, as well as be presented at a public hearing.
Affirmative votes at both readings are required for adoption of any ordinance, under the Towns Parliamentary procedures. According to Mayor Paxton, Turner is having an ordinance drawn up to present to the Council at a future meeting.
Paxton also reported that Turner was seeking an immediate meeting to address the matter, but was informed that only emergency meetings can be called with only 24 hours notice. Since we have re-established the public safety, there is no emergency, and Mr. Turner was so advised. The emergency came when a majority of Council, without discussion or debate, and without the public being made aware, decided to take actions that clearly affected the public safety. Its just unbelievable to think of it, said Paxton.
Following a half hour executive session concerning a personnel matter, which The Journal learned involved a police officer, and acting in concert, the three man majority moved and approved the dissolution of the Towns three man police force, effective immediately.
The decision would have also effectively ended the employment of Municipal Judge Roger Scott, as well as that of Shane Black, who was hired just months ago to help Judge Scott make the transition to the new court administration system being implemented across the state.
Judge Scott, who was present at the meeting, said he had no idea such a move was afoot. I am absolutely shocked by this. I had no idea what was coming.
Councilman Joe Turner, when questioned by Councilman Mike Moran, denied that his dislike for Chief Bernard Wilson led to his motion. He also dismissed Morans questions about whether Turner would later reestablish the department with his nephew Stephen as Chief.
(Editors note: Turner does not have a nephew named Stephen)
Mayor Paxton was clearly incensed by the move, telling Turner, You dont care about the public safety. You are costing all these people their jobs just because you dont like Chief Wilson. What are these problems with the force that you keep referring to? Tell us. I mean this is basically the only service we provide our citizens, so whats wrong with it?
Turner refused to elaborate on the problems he was referring to, saying,I made a motion. Lets vote on it.
The Journal has confirmed that West Pelzer Police Officer Charles Beddingfield is currently on administrative leave as a result of complaints made by Nena Crothers, of 199 Mill St., Midway Manor Apartments. Crothers, who according to two ACSO incident reports, called deputies twice in the last two weeks complaining that Beddingfield, whom she once dated, had been harassing her.
The first incident report, dated February 1, 2008, alleged that Beddingfield had gone to Crothers residence to retrieve some personal items. She refused to let him in and called the Sheriffs department. Crothers is a dispatcher at central Dispatch.
The most recent incident report, dated February 8, alleges that Beddingfield was following Crothers around town. In neither case were any arrests made or charges filed.
Mayor Paxton told The Journal in a telephone interview that a decision on Beddingfields status will be forthcoming by the end of the week.
Whether the issues concerning Beddingfield resulted in Monday nights actions is unconfirmed, but Beddingfield was placed on leave on Monday.
Councilmen Marshall King and James Jeanes, who provided the other votes needed, both later denied agreeing previously to implement the plan, though Turner did provide a letter dated November 27, 2007 in which Sheriff David Crenshaw acknowledged that he is mandated by law to provide law enforcement coverage to all areas of the county where other police services do not exist. The letter goes on to confirm that the ACSO will provide any law enforcement service to the town of West Pelzer should the need arise.
The letter pointed out that current staffing levels would not support the permanent assignment of a deputy to patrol solely within the city limits of West Pelzer.
The Journal has confirmed that a member of the Town Council contacted the ACSO late Monday afternoon to make them aware that the decision to dissolve the department might come up at the meeting, according to Chief Deputy Creed Hashe.
Town Attorney Murphy contacted Sheriff Crenshaw Tuesday morning and formally notified him that the West Pelzer Police Department had resumed its operations for the foreseeable future, according to Mayor Paxton.
Chief Hashe did not know the identity of the Council member, but he acknowledged generating the November letter cited above. They have obviously been kicking this idea around for a while. We sent them a letter last fall stating our position, which is simply that we are required to fill any vacuum in law enforcement within the County. If a town has no police force, we will do our best to provide protection for that area. But we certainly cant assign a deputy just to the town limits of West Pelzer.
In other business, Mayor Paxton, after a heated exchange with Councilmen Jeanes and Turner over the town credit cards, apologized for her conduct and agreed to leave the cards at Town Hall. She had argued that since they were in her name and she was responsible for their use, or abuse, she preferred to have actual possession of them.
Jeanes had pointed out repeatedly that the Council had voted otherwise and that Paxton had concurred in that vote. If we vote to do something, then we should follow that rule. You voted in favor of that, so you should go along with it.
At first, Paxton told Jeanes and the other members of Council to take whatever action they thought was necessary in regards to that matter. Do what you think you need to Jimmy. I really dont care. But if Im going to be responsible, then I think I should keep up with the cards. I mean what if Im over in Anderson and the clerk calls and says we need something? Am I supposed to drive back here to get the card first?
She later apologized and assured Council that both the credit cards would be at the Town Hall by the end of the evening. Following the meeting, she confirmed to The Journal that such was the case.
The mayor also reported on the outcome of a meeting held between West Pelzer and Pelzer officials, as well as representatives from DHEC, The Rural Development Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission concerning the wastewater issues facing the two towns.
Mayor Paxton and Councilman King attended on behalf of West Pelzer, along with the town attorney. They were actually here to take back the grant money we received in 1999 if we werent going to use it. But they really dont want to take over the town, so they were very open to options. They basically established a five year plan which would require us to replace 20% of our sewer lines each year for the life of the plan. That will help us tremendously because it will steadily reduce the amount of water we have entering our treatment plant that doesnt need to be treated. Right now, we are treating rainwater and storm runoff as if it was sewage. Thats the problem we need to address, no matter who we eventually hook onto for treatment and disposal of our wastewater.
Paxton said that the Town is currently just waiting to be informed that the funds are available for use. Then we will start to slip line our sewer lines and start reworking our lift stations. I am hopeful that once we have begun, DHEC might view additional development in the town a little more favorably. But right now we are still under a consent order.
Slip line is a process of installing new lines alongside the older lines.
The old Gossett school building in Williamston, resigned to storage and sold at auction, has new life.
After purchasing the historic building in 2006, the new owners, Alan Ellison and his mother, Karen, have transformed the building to a festive events center, decorated for holidays and being used for all types of special events.
Events that have been held there over the last two years include weddings, receptions, parties, gospel singings and other special events.
The building has been restored, Allen said. We have had a lot of parties, gospel singings and an Ellison reunion.
A special event held during Thanksgiving had 200 people in attendance. A Christmas program drew 150 and they are expecting at least that many for the next event, being held this Thursday, Valentines Day.
The historic building is decorated with pink hearts and other decorations for the Valentines Day party that will include an Italian menu of spaghetti, lasagna, and pizza. There will be southern gospel music. Area school children are donating valentines for the adults and dressing up for the holiday. The community is invited and best of all, its free.
Our intention is to have at least one gospel singing each month, along with allowing the residents of Williamston and surrounding towns to use our facility for other activities, Karen said.
The renovated building features a music hall/stage room, two dining rooms, a kitchen, and a serving room. Two restrooms have also been updated and renovated.
Each of the rooms are decorated. The dining rooms can seat 60 - 70 people each and total capacity is about 200. The building can be rented and they can provide food catering for special events held there.
The building was purchased at auction from the town two years ago.
I, my son Alan and fiance, James Major Kelly had been looking for a place to have gospel singings and this appeared to be exactly what we needed, Karen said. We attended the auction and through the grace of God were able to purchase this property from the auction.
Immediately Alan set about cleaning out and renovating the structure, anticipating holding parties and gospel singings.
The first event was held in November, two years ago.
Since then there have been numerous family events, class reunions, birthday parties and other events.
One of the regular Southern Gospel performers that can be seen there is The Kelly Singers, featuring Karen, James and his daughter Paulette.
James and his family were known as the Kelly Singers, traveling for years singing and playing gospel music throughout South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
In addition to performing, James helps with scheduling musicians and singers at the Gossett St. center.
We have basically dedicated this building for the glory of God. We have had numerous gospel singings here and just last Saturday night were blessed to have a renowned gospel song writer and singer, Kyla Rowland, from Morristown, Tennessee, to perform in concert with her group known as Kyla Rowland and Deliverance.
Alan is responsible for decorating the facility as well as preparing the food.
The Williamston Area Historic Society discussed the possibility of having the building placed on the historic register and Alan said the new owners hope to follow through. Even though the building has renovations, it is mostly as it was and will fall under the guidelines.
To get into condition to use as they planned, major renovation work was needed.
With help from an engineer from Greenville and the Anderson County Building and Codes department, they were able to make the needed repairs on the building which included new electrical and plumbing as well as adding heating and air conditioning.
More than 100 window panes were replaced.
The Gossett School was built in 1923 by Mr. J. P. Gossett, who also built the cotton mill and surrounding mill village. The school housed grades 1 - 4.
In addition to housing a school, the building has housed a YMCA program and the Williamston Recreation Center.
For more information on programs or use of the building, call 864-314-3413.
Members of the Anderson County Capital Projects Sales Tax Commission were in Williamston last Thursday to explain and to answer questions on the initiative which will establish a one percent sales tax to be used for a variety of projects throughout the County.
Commission members Dave Jones and Bob Burris from Belton led the discussion.
Early on, Williamston Councilman Carthel Crout expressed concern that there was no one from Williamston area on the commission.
Jones responded that the members of the commission will represent the entire county in the fairest way possible.
I can assure you I will represent you and we will be the fairest we can possibly be.
According to Jones, each of the Countys seven council districts will receive approximately $22 million over the 7 year period the tax will remain in effect if it is approved by voters later this year.
We will try to make sure each district gets the same amount of money, Burriss said.
According to Burriss, each municipality in the county will present a list of projects along with projects that may be in the county for consideration for funding.
The commission will then decide which projects from each council distict to place on the final list that will be presented to County Council for final approval.
Projects being considered in the area include:
Williamston - extension of Ida Tucker Road, $6.5 million; replace SC 20 bridge and four lane, $4 million; install sidewalks near all schools, no estimate available.
West Pelzer - Joe Black Road bridge replacement $550,000;
Hopewell Piercetown - Bridge replacement on Long Road, $430,000; McGee Road realingnment and widen roadway, improve intersecition, $1.5 million.
Powdersville - realign and widen Piedmont Road and improve intersections, $1 million; realign and widen Three Bridges Road and improve intersections.
Three & Twenty, Hunt Meadows - Intersection improvement at St. Paul and SC Hwy. 8; bridge replacement on Ridge Rd., $660,000.
Piedmont - Improve intersection on Westinghouse Rd., no estimate available.
If the referendum is approved by voters this year, funding for specific projects will become available by 2009, Jones said.
Jones said he hopes the public will realize the impact the funding will have on road, bridge and other infrastructure throughout the county.
What are we going to do if we dont do this, Jones said. He said there are a number of roads and bridges that need work. We are getting $5 million behind every year, Jones said. We have got to start addressing safety issues. This is a golden opportunity that we have the chance to do this.
A number of other upstate counties have similar tax that they are using for similar projects, he said.
In addition to Jones and Burriss, Commission members include Dick Bales, Rusty Burns, Vance Clinkscales and Kurt Oglesby.
The Commission is totally independent of the County at this point, according to Jones.
Public meetings are scheduled throughout the County, however the Williamston meeting, held at Williamston Town Hall, was not officially announced to the press.
Instead, the Anderson County reverse 911 system was used the day before the meeting to let Williamston area residents know about the meeting, according to Anderson County Transportation Director Holt Hopkins.
Upcoming meetings will be held at Homeland Park Fire Department on Feb. 18, the Iva Civic Center on Feb. 21, the Townville Baptist Church on Feb. 25, and the Powdersville Library on Feb. 28. The Powdersville meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m.
A meeting will be held at the Three & Twenty Fire Department on March 3 at 6 p.m.
The full commission will meet at 6 p.m. on Mar. 6 at the Anderson Civic Center and at 4:30 p.m. on Mar. 13 at the Anderson Library.
Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Mickey Moss is leaving Wren. Moss confirmed Tuesday that he has accepted the position as Blacksburgs football coach pending Cherokee County School District 1 Board approval.
Wren football coaches and players were told the news Tuesday afternoon.
Im looking forward to going home, the 1967 Blacksburg graduate commented following the announcement of his hiring.
Moss said he was contacted about the job at his alma mater several weeks ago and after thinking and praying about it, decided to take the job.
Its home and alway has been and always will be, he added. This was too good of an opportunity not to take advantage of. I plan on making this my last coaching stop. I want to stay in it as long as I have the energy I have now.
The Hurricanes had a 14-30 record during the four years with Moss at the helm. They ended the past season 4-7.
Moss came to Wren from Lake City where he went 85-63, making the playoffs 10 of 13 years and winning a region title.
He started a ninth grade football program at the school to help build the varsity team.
Organ music resonating from historic Walker Hall located on the campus of the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind (SCSDB) was once a routine occurrence. However, for many years, the school had been without an organ but no longer!
SCSDB now has an organ donated by Milford and Melba Blackmon Cooper, of Piedmont, parents of Rep. Daniel Cooper (Dist. No. 10, Anderson County).
A dedication ceremony was held for the instrument Monday, February 4 in Walker Hall at the SCSDB campus at 355 Cedar Springs Road in Spartanburg.
We are so grateful to the Coopers for this generous donation, said Heather Patchett, executive director of SCSDBs Walker Foundation. We rely on this kind of support from people all over South Carolina so that we can offer our children a strong and broad educational experience.
Highlights of the event included an organ concert and an SCSDB student musical presentation.
This wonderful organ gives our students access to a wealth of music, she said. In addition to having staff and guests play for the students, several of our students are beginning to learn their way around the organ, and enjoy the rich tones and diversity of accompaniments that it offers. From church music to jazz pieces, the organ is so responsive and the kids just love it.
The SC Department of Education named SCSDB a Palmetto Gold School for its academic accomplishments and a Red Carpet School for its outstanding customer service.
SCSDB is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf and the SC Department of Education. SCSDB offers programs for preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, sensory multidisabled, vocational and postsecondary education students, as well as a variety of outreach services through regional centers located throughout the state. The main campus is located in Spartanburg. The schools web site address is www.scsdb.org and its toll-free telephone number is 1-888-447-2732.
The next Memories by the Fireside event will be held on Saturday, February 23, from 6-8 p.m. in the Historic Pelzer Gym. The event is titled Dont Break the Law!. From 6:30 to 7 p.m., the program will feature guest Speaker Paul H. Heartel, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent of the Greenville office of the FBI. The program will commemorate Lawyers, Judges, Police Officers and Firefighters from the Pelzer area.
A book by Dary Matera, FBIs Ten Most Wanted will also be featured. The book includes a story of how a member of the ten most wanted found out that it was a bad idea to sell a lemon car in Pelzer.
Dary Materas books and subjects have been featured on 20/20, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, among others. They have been reviewed and featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, and many other newspapers and magazines.
Matera, 50, was formerly a reporter for the Miami News and worked as an editor in the book division of Rodale Press, the publishers of Prevention magazine. At Rodale, he was responsible for the writing and editing of selected chapters in six health and fitness books with sales of more than four million.
The public is invited to attend this informative and interesting presentation.
For directions or more information, contact Will Rostron at (864) 947-8817 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This Saturday, February 16, is the final day to register to vote in the Anderson County School District No. 1 Bond Referendum Election to be held March 18.
Persons who wish to register to vote may do so by visiting the Voter Registration Office located in the old Bailes Building, located directly behind the old Historic Courthouse, 107 South Main Street, in Room 101 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Registration can also be done by mail. Applications by mail must be post marked by Saturday, February 16, for processing to be eligible to participate in the Bond Referendum.
Voters who have moved out of Anderson County or out-of-State and returned must re-register by February 16 to be eligible to vote in the Bond Referendum.
Persons who have previously registered in Anderson County but moved within the county will also need to update their voter registration.
Changes may be made at the Voter Registration and Elections Office, or by mailing a change of address form to P.O. Box 8002 Anderson, SC 29622. This and other forms are available for download at www.andersoncountysc.org/vote.
State Law requires that persons wishing to vote must be registered at least 30 days prior to an election to participate in that election.
Registered voters, who qualify, and intend to cast an absentee ballot by mail, may call 864-260-4035 to request an absentee ballot application.
South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell and members of the House Republican Caucus recently introduced a bill that will replace the states Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test with a diagnostic style test which will provide quicker results teachers can use to better educate the states children.
Teachers have been asking for this change so they can do their job of educating our children better, Speaker Harrell said. Using a diagnostic test will give our teachers quicker results and the tools they need to ensure our children are getting the best education possible.
The bill (H. 4662) replaces the PACT test with a diagnostic test and brings our state in line with No Child Left Behind.
Bob Walker, Chairman of the House Education Committee, said, These changes will provide our teachers with a test they can use to accurately judge a students performance and will give our state tangible results we can use to compare our students with those from around our country.
Other plans to change the states PACT test have been rejected because they contain measures that dismantle many parts of the Educational Accountability Act.
Speaker Harrell said, We need to replace the PACT test, but we will fight to stop any plan that waters down the Educational Accountability Act we fought so hard to pass. We will work to protect accountability in education by stopping any effort that leads to the lowering of standards, restriction of education oversight, elimination of key testing of subjects like U.S. History or any other effort to dismantle accountability.
On Sunday afternoon, at 3:04 p.m., Williamston firefighters were summoned, to 6 East First St. in Williamston for a power pole and transformer fire. Winds were gusting upwards of 35 MPH, and the power pole fire soon escalated to a very large brush and woods fire, according to Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison. Entire trees were soon burning and several acres from East First St. to East Third St. At one point the fire jumped First St. Ext. and onto the property adjacent to the Cushman Plant, Chief Ellison said. The blaze was eventually contained after approximately three hours of constant firefighting. Twenty-two Williamston firefighters, with help from six Cheddar firefighters, and two West Pelzer firefighters helped bring the fire under control. Chief Ellison praised the efforts of the fireiighters who were involved in the effort. Thanks to all that were involved in controlling, a very dangerous situation, he said.
Williamston Police officers investigated thefts, bank fraud and discovered a fugitive wanted by the US Immigratins Dept. These and other incidents investigated include the following:
Feb. 1 Ptl. M.W. Ritter stopped Ronaldo Hernandez for faulty equipment and found that Hernandez, WM, 20, 53", 150 pounds, blk/brn, of Greenville, had no drivers license. He was arrested and transported to WPD for booking.
Feb. 2- Cpl. D.W. Bryant responded to Mitchells Coin Laundry where Jack Mitchell reported the breaking and entering and theft of laundry supplied valued at $500.
Feb. 2- Sgt. T.A. Call and Cpl. D.W. Bryant responded to the location of Pizza and Then Some , where they found Nathan English, WM, 22, 64", 180 pounds, of Clayton, GA, and Lacy Forrester, WF, 22, 53", 120 pounds, of Rabun Gap, GA involved in a verbal altercation. Both were found to be intoxicated and were arrested on liquor law violations and open container charges.
Feb. 2 Ptl. M.W. Zimmer and Sgt. Z.E. Gregory observed a Toyota with faulty equipment and stopped it. They found that the driver, Sergio Hernandez, WM, 24, 52", 170 pounds, of Simpsonville, had no drivers license. He was arrested and transported to WPD for booking.
Feb. 3 Sgt. T.A. Call was running radar when he observed a car running 52 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour zone. He stopped the car and found that Samuel Benitez, WM, 24, 57", 180 pounds, of Williamston, had no SCDL. He was arrested and transported to WPD.
Feb. 4- Sgt. A Digirolamo, Jr. and Ptl. D.E. Whaley saw a green pickup run a stop sign at the intersection of Middleton and Minor Streets, almost hitting the officers. They stopped the vehicle and discovered that the driver, Ovidio Valle. WM, 31, 56", 185 pounds, of 117 Terrapin Dr., had no drivers license. He was also discovered to be a fugitive wanted by the US Immigration Dept.
Feb. 5 SRO R.G. Alexander and Cpl. J.M. Hall worked together to seize a number of pills and some marijuana being sold at Palmetto Middle School by a juvenile subject who was arrested and held for DJJ.
Feb. 5 Sgt. A. Digirolamo, Jr. and Sgt. M.D. Creamer responded to the Community First Bank location where they arrested Raymond Woods for cashing checks on a closed account. It was also discovered that the Columbia, SC Police Department had a warrant on Woods for bank fraud. Woods was transported to WPD for booking.
Feb. 6 Ptl. D.E. Whaley and Ptl. M.W. Ritter observed a vehicle make an illegal left turn and stopped the car. It was discovered that the driver, Timothy Maes, WM, 24, 511", 165 pounds, of Gray Court, was driving on a suspended license, fourth offense. A search of the car revealed a large amount of pseudophedrine, as well as other items used in manufacturing methamphetamine. Maes was arrested and transported to WPD.
Feb. 7 Cpl. D.W. Bryant received a complaint from Jill Cox that someone had stolen a new Heil residential heating unit she had listed for sale.
Feb. 9 Sgt. A. Digirolamo, Jr. and Ptl. D.E. Whaley initiated a traffic stop on Luis Caballos-Menesses, whom Digirolamo knew to be driving without a drivers license. He was arrested and transported.
Feb. 9 Sgt. A. Digirolamo, Jr. and Ptl. D.E. Whaley stopped Matthew Rutledge, WM, 29, 511", 152 pounds, of 13 Lander St., for speeding 58 in a 35 mile an hour zone. He was also found to be driving under suspension. He was arrested.
Feb. 10 Ptl. D.E. Whaley received a report from John Farmer, at 108 E Street, that someone had stolen twelve solar lights from his yard. The loss was estimated at $300.
Feb. 10 Ptl D.E. Whaley and Sgt. A Digirolamo Jr. responded to a report of trespassing at 114 W. 3rd St., where they found Sharon D. Miller on the front porch of the residence. A check with WPD dispatch confirmed that Miller, WF, 24, 58", 140 pounds, blond/blue, of Honea Path, was on trespass notice for that location. She was arrested and transported to WPD for booking.
Feb. 10 Ptl. M.W. Ritter observed a Pontiac Grand Prix disregard a traffic signal at Mitchells Car Wash. Sgt. M.D. Creamer responded to assist. They stopped the vehicle and asked for the drivers license. A strong smell of alcohol was present and both the driver, James Chandler, WM, 70, 6,220 pounds, of Salem, SC, and the passenger, Cynthia Alexander , WF, 38, 511", 150 pounds, blond/brn were asked to step from the vehicle. Alexander was unsteady on her feet and acting very disorderly. A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed two open bottles of beer and a bag of marijuana. Alexander was placed under arrest and resisted, resulting in her being tazered. Chandler was charged with open container and disregarding a traffic signal, while Alexander was charged with disorderly conduct, simple possession of marijuana, and resisting arrest.
(Wednesday, February 6)
By Stan Welch
Despite the determined efforts of the County administration, in a remarkable scene, both media and a handful of private citizens accompanied County Council members Cindy Wilson and Bob Waldrep on their visit to review credit card records at the historic courthouse Wednesday morning.
Those efforts included patient insistence by Public Safety Director Taylor Jones that the review session was restricted only to Council members. Wilson and Waldrep disagreed, as did the various media on hand and the four private citizens who attended as well. Councilwoman Wilson, whose battle to attain access to such mundane financial information concerning the County has gone on for years, told Jones that the administrators written announcement that the entire Council had been invited to attend the review in effect made the meeting a public one.
This is a public meeting and everyone here, including the media and the citizens are entitled to be there. If you interfere with that, Mr. Jones, you are committing an illegal act. You should give your position a great deal of thought before interfering.
Jones, who remained civil and courteous throughout the encounter, told Ms. Wilson his actions were not illegal. My boss is the county administrator and he has instructed me that this meeting is to be restricted to you and Mr. Waldrep. I am complying with his instructions to the best of my ability.
Councilman Waldrep sympathized with Jones, saying, Taylor, you have been put in a tough position. But this meeting became open when an attempt was made to assemble a quorum. You cant get the genie back in the bottle now.
Assistant County administrator Michael Cunningham arrived to escort the Council members to the room where the information was waiting. He reiterated that absent a quorum of the Council the meeting did not become public. Wilson and Waldrep countered that the failure of the other members to attend did not negate the effort to assemble a quorum.
Again, Wilson informed him that everyone would be going and after considerable, though controlled and civil debate between the officials as well as the public, Wilson led the way upstairs with the entire group in tow.
Upon arriving at the conference room being used for the review, Cunningham, who also remained courteous and professional throughout the encounter, attempted to block access to the room for everyone but Wilson and Waldrep. Wilson asked him to step aside and made way for the group to enter the room. Already present was county videographer Paul Brown, who told Waldrep he had been contacted that morning to come and tape the session.
Waldrep, Wilson, and Cunningham continued to joust over various issues, such as whether the box of files present would be taken to the finance department for an explanation of how they were organized, or whether Finance Director Rita Davis would join the Council members and provide any information needed. Cunningham, despite repeated protests from Wilson about removing the records, prevailed and took the box downstairs.
Wilson would later regain the lost ground by refusing to allow the removal of a copier she had brought from the Council offices to be used in copying the various documents. Cunningham said that he would copy and redact any documents needed so that the credit card account numbers would not be compromised.
Asked by the reporter for The Journal if redacting the copies once they were made would solve the issue, Cunningham said the procedure was already in place and should be followed. He also denied that his insistence reflected any distrust of the two elected officials involved, insisting the matter was one of procedure.
His efforts to physically remove the copier from the room were stopped by Wilson who actually recovered the copier and moved it to another corner of the room. That copier belongs to the County Council and not you, Mr. Cunningham. Please leave it alone.
Wilson and Waldrep worked together to review the files, making copies when they wished and often trading information.
Present in the room were both Council members, Cunningham, Jones, Brown, Clerk to Council Linda Edelmann, various members of the media, and Chief of the Park Police Bill Striewing.
Striewing had earlier been involved in efforts to prevent the media, specifically the reporter from The Journal, from entering the building. When the reporter entered the building, Striewing was waiting just inside the door.
Where do you think youre going, asked Striewing. The reporter replied he was going to sign in at the desk and then go to the mens room. He was told by Striewing that he would not be allowed to go to the mens room, that on this particular day, the public restrooms were not public.
The reporter then told Striewing that he was also waiting to accompany two elected officials to the conference room to observe and report on their review of certain financial records. A spirited discussion pursued, during which the reporter challenged the authority of the Park Police to perform a custodial arrest, or an arrest in which a person is actually taken into custody.
Striewing, during this debate over his authority, said, Im empowered by a code, at which point the reporter interrupted and asked him what code. Striewing refused to provide that information, saying, You learn what the code is. I dont have to tell you.
At that point the reporter said, Im trying to learn the code. David Crenshaw doesnt know what code it is. He told me that you have the same status as a state constable, which means you have to be in the presence of a certified law enforcement officials to have any arrest authority.
Following further debate during which the reporter said again that Striewing had no authority to make a custodial arrest, Striewing then said, If you touch me Ill arrest you.
Bill, I never said anything about touching you, said the reporter. Striewing replied, Yes you did. You just threatened me, and Ive got witnesses, indicating Jones and another Park Police officer.
When the reporter called him a liar and showed him the tape recorder which had been in use and in plain sight throughout the encounter, Striewing asked Jones to watch the reporter and he left the scene.
By Stan Welch
Perhaps you have heard at least a little bit about an extraordinary experience I had last week. This experience comes at the end of my twenty fourth year as a journalist.
That career has included some remarkable experiences, both good and bad. I have seen blood spilled and racists march on city streets of a nation strong enough to allow it. I have seen lives destroyed by nature and saved by the courage of those who would not be destroyed. I have seen cowardice that would sicken the person possessing the normal amount of courage that most of us can muster if given sufficient cause.
I have seen craven, corrupt politicians sell their votes and their souls for amounts of money that are shamefully small, making their loss of honor even harder to fathom. I have listened as politicians have lied and told wonderful truths, sometimes within sentences of the same speech.
I have been arrested and threatened by law enforcement officers, and cursed by average citizens. Ive been followed down lonely dirt roads and had rocks thrown through the windows of my house. I have had strangers cut my lawn and leave no sign of their identity, just because I wrote a column about having a broken lawn mower. I have been welcomed with open arms and apple pies by those who value accurate information and expect high standards of those they put into office.
Ive had folks buy me drinks I didnt know they had bought until I tried to pay my tab, and Ive had public officials refuse to accept a drink I tried to buy them. Ive had a couple of drinks thrown in my face, and more than a couple of punches thrown at me over the years. Ive taken it all in stride, and tried to understand the motives behind the ugly acts, while accepting the intentions of the kind ones.
My point is Ive seen a lot of human behavior at close range in my life, and Ive reported on it for the last twenty four years. And I needed every bit of that savvy last week to believe what I experienced.
I went to the historic court house last Wednesday at the invitation of two elected officials who wanted me, and other members of the media, to be on hand as they, at long last, got to review credit card records for the county administration.
When I walked in a few minutes early, Capt. Bill Striewing, currently of the Public Safety Department, formerly known as the Park Police, immediately assailed me and asked where I thought I was going. Now, keep in mind, I was in a public building. When I told him I was going to the mens room, he told me that the bathrooms werent public that day and I couldnt use them.
Sensing impending stupidity at a level extraordinary even for a member of the Preston Praetorian Guard, I turned on the tape recorder I had decided to bring with me that day. One of my better recent decisions, if I do say so myself.
What ensued would be called spirited debate by some, and an argument by others. He tried his best to intimidate me and I simply wasnt intimidated. Some of you have heard me say this before. As a Citadel graduate, who was occasionally beaten unconscious for an upperclassmans entertainment, and who never had his first meal of the day without doing at least two hundred push ups, intimidation is not something I succumb to very often.
Im not saying I cant be intimidated. Im just saying I cant be intimidated by the likes of Bill Striewing.
I responded by questioning his authority to make an arrest, since to the best of my knowledge, and despite considerable effort, I have yet to discover any evidence that Park Police can make a real arrest.
Unfazed by my failure to recognize his authority, he immediately took a different course. He told me if I touched him, he would arrest me. When I reminded him I had said nothing about touching him, he replied ,Yes you did. You just threatened me, and I have eyewitnesses.
I then did something I seldom do, and despite the fact that what I said was perfectly true, I wish I had not said it that day. I called Bill Striewing a liar. In fact, I called him a lying dog. That statement is true, but most dogs I know deserve better.
There are many people in Anderson County who question the need for the Park Police, as I still think of them. Those same people wonder where this organization got their authority.
Lets look at the question of authority very briefly. The ACSO is established by the Constitution of the State. Its legal authority is clearly established and affirmed. But the real authority of any law enforcement body lies in its moral conduct and its professionalism. A law enforcement body without integrity is a body without authority. It may have power; it may have legal status. But it has no authority unless the people it serves accept that authority.
Whatever integrity the Park Police may have had is gone. Its head was apparently willing to falsify a police report in order to attain his end to intimidate and interfere with a free press. When the integrity of such an organization is gone, the organization may as well go too.
Bill Striewing not only sacrificed whatever personal integrity he may have once had, but he also sacrificed the integrity of the unit he runs. The value of that organization has been reduced to nothing to anyone except Mr. Preston, who established the organization for his own purpose and should pay for its continued existence from his own purse, or abolish the unit once and for all.
I know one thing. Id hate to think my boss would assume that I was a liar. Seems to me its hard enough to work for someone who assumes youre not. And Ive always found it impossible to work for someone whom I knew was. Guess Mr. Striewing and Mr. Preston see things differently.