News Archive

(1306) Week of Mar 29, 2006

Final property list determined for auction
Citizens express concerns about properties being sold
State Retirement forgoes interest
GWBA making plans for events
GWBA Easter egg hunt Apr. 8
Ride for Pelzer Sk8 park
Wren student arrested for disrupting school
School funding by State may increase for 2006/2007
Undercover incident continues to draw attention
Greenville Drive mascot designed by Wren elementary art team
Ed Jean announces for County Council District 7
Seems to Me . . .Upcoming elections

Final property list determined for auction

During a work session held Tuesday (Mar. 28) Williamston Town Council decided to remove 10 lots that were on the original list to be sold at auction this Thursday Mar. 30.

Coming off the list are six of the McPhail properties that have renters on them, two properties on Dacus St., one at Minor and College and the Lander property at Main. St. and Gossett. Remaining on the list is the Gossett St. School building and the old city hall.

Following an executive session that lasted just over an hour, Council returned to open session to discuss and vote on the properties to be left off.

Council unanimously decided to pull the McPhail properties and to allow the renters currently living on the properties to remain and to purchase the properties at the assessed value. Mayor Phillip Clardy said their current rent payment will be applied toward purchasing the property. Any structure on the property will be given to the renter and will be their responsibility, he said.

Clardy said the decision will “protect the interest of the town” and that “it was not the intent that anyone not have a home to live in.” Clardy stated that a mortgage document will be drawn up for each resident and there will be foreclosure and late penalties in the mortgage contract.

“This will bring some closure and give them the opportunity to own their homes,” he said.

Council left the Gossett St. school building, also known as the old Recreation Center, on the sale list. Mayor Clardy said that the property had not been used for recreation purposes for 15 years and was only being used for storage. He also said he trusted the opinion of the town’s attorney on whether property could be sold.

He said that the building was not benefitting the town, taxes were not being collected and that repair of the building would be major.

He also said that even though it had some historic value, selling it might instigate growth for the town.

No action was taken by Council and it remains on the list.

The old city hall on Main St. will also remain on the list. Though the property will be sold, Clardy said there will be a stipulation that the building be moved.

“This is the one that we have all lost the most sleep over,” Clardy said. “There is a fear of losing the town’s history, probably the main concern,” he said.

Clardy said that though he could not go into detail, the property could have implications concerning a significant tenant in the shoppng center.

Before taking the vote, Clardy indicated that he was not opposed to selling the property with the stipulation of making an effort to preserve the past.

He said he would request that the old town hall building and the time capsule buried on the property “be given back to the town with the intent to move and preserve it for history.”

He also suggested the museum project, which was to be housed in the old city hall, be moved to the Muncipal Center where he said there are two rooms available. He said that the center is the primary focus along with the park when visitors and tour groups visit. The vote to sell  the old town hall property was 3-1 with Councilman Greg Cole voting against the proposal.

Councilman Cole made a  motion for  Council to take the Ida Tucker/dam property off the list but the motion died for lack of second.

Lots 4 and 9 on Dacus St. were also removed from the sale by a unanimous vote of Council. Lot 9, at the end of Dacus St., was partially graded as part of the soccer field and Lot 4 will be needed for parking and access, town officials said.

Before taking the vote, there was discussion about the possibility of the addition of the Veterans’ Park and in the future, possibly the armory, as part of the recreational facilities available in the center of the town.

There was some discussion about lots on College St. which may be needed for widening or extending the street in the future. Only Lot 1 on College St. was removed from the sale, because it may be needed for a recycling site, Council unanimously decided.

During the discussion about the College St. lots, it was determined that a  50 ft. right of way was needed if the street was widened or extended in the future.

Also, property listed as Lot #20, located at the corner of College St. and Minor, which is showing on some of the materials as one of the lots being sold, is not owned by the town and will not be included in the auction.

Although changes are not expected, town officials reserved the right to add or take off properties within 24 hours of the auction.

The town’s property auction sale will take place this Thursday, March 30 at 6 p.m. at the Williamston Municipal Center.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward the town’s delinquent IRS payments. 

Citizens express concerns about properties being sold

Several Williamston residents expressed concerns about the town’s property auction during a public hearing held last Thursday at the Williamston Municipal Center. The  property auction sale is set for 6 p.m. this Thursday, Mar. 30.

Mayor Phillip Clardy began the meeting stating that the town had discussed selling properties owned by the town in 2002. He said council had voted in 2003 to sell vacant lots which were being kept up and maintained by the town and to utilize the revenues if the property sold.

“This is not a new concept,” Clardy stated, saying that “the properties are a liability to the town and that they offer potential for helping our situation.”

Realtor Hugh Durham said that two properties with questions about state recreation tourism connections had been removed. He also said that a lot on Dacus St. will be left off the list because of grading for the soccer field which was done on a good portion of the lot.

According to Durham, persons living on the McPhail property which was donated to the town, will be allowed to present a letter of credit from their bank and will not have to put down $3,500 if they have a successful bid.

He also said that successful bidders on other properties will not have to put down more than the purchase price of the property.

There was considerable discussion about 14 acres of property on Ida Tucker Road which includes the Williamston Reservoir dam and property below it. Approximately half of the tract includes the dam itself.

Durham said the property will have a 60 ft. right of way easement and easement for the dam, which restricts its use to a dam.

The Mill St. property which includes 22-23 acres, will be cut into three pieces, he said. The McPhail properties will only be sold as individual lots and will not be combined.

Responding to questions raised by Tim Cole about the dam, Durham said 7.5 acres lie outside the dam easement and the person purchasing the property will own the property with an easement for the dam and spillway.

Cole stated that the dam was an important asset for the town and should not be sold.

Clardy responded that the town is considering and reconsidering the properties and the legal questions.

Cole advised the town not to sell the property and then later say “gosh, I wish we hadn’t done that.”

On the same piece of property, Mark Powell said, “I can’t imagine those developers (of Shorebrook and Waterford) gave land that is developable to the town.”

Mayor Clardy said that the town attorney had looked at every property, done title work and had determined that the properties being listed can all be sold.

Willie Wright asked that all persons owning homes on the McPhail properties be allowed to stay and asked that the citizens not be displaced. He said they should be allowed to continue to pay rent. “They had nothing to do with the financial crisis of Williamston and should not be asked to pay for it.”

One of the residents, Brian Caldwell, asked city officials, “How can you sleep after placing a for sale sign in our yard?”

“We are not now evicting the residents,” Clardy said. “If she had sold it, the renters would be at the mercy of another owner. The town is not a landlord,” Clardy said. “We are only taking responsibility of accepting the property, not to continue as a landlord.”

Clardy then said the town attorney had advised that they could evict the renters but the town had decided not to.

Juanita Rogers reminisced about the old town hall where she worked as an assistant clerk and treasurer from 1959 to 1969 and then as clerk and treasurer. “It is dear to my heart, she said, “very dear.”

She said it was a historical building with many things happening there including most of the planning for the watershed discussed earlier. She said when the town borrowed money to get through to tax time, “we paid back every dime we borrowed.”

“Before you sell it,” she said, “think of the history and the people. We spent our young years there, for the town which we served and worked. 50 years has made a difference.”

Marion Middleton Jr. said that certain properties had been set aside for specific uses and there were additional recreational uses to consider. He pointed out the liability of the 14 acres donated by the developers of Waterford and Shorebrook, and problems with the existing easement. He said it is also the headwaters for the creek that flows through the park and that it contains valuable timber.

He said it is more valuable to the town than anyone else. “The town agreed to honor those conditions,” he said, concerning deed restrictions on Lander property and the old Gossett School property.

Middleton said that adjacent property near the armory could possibly be added to the park area. “It would be a reason for people to come  to Williamston. This could add to it. We have something nobody else has.”

The extension of Mauldin St. to alleviate school traffic and open up baseball fields was also mentioned as was the possible need for a sewer expansion on the 22 acres on Mill St.

Middleton said there was no mention of structures on the McPhail property when it was accepted into the town. “This situation was created by action of this council. Give it to the people living on them. They will pay taxes and the town will get some income off these lots.”

He also questioned  the associated costs of having an absolute auction. Middleton said the town will have to clear $100,000 before it nets the first dollar. He suggested going to a sealed bid process with the right to refuse any offer.

“This town has been through a lot, you hold the future of this town in your hand,” he said.

Another resident on the rental lots said he talked to the mayor and was told, “Don’t worry, it will be a year before we can do anything with it.” He said he tried to make payments to the town but was turned away.

Mark Powell brought up the use of grant money on the 21 acres on Cherokee Road and the system not being used. He said he thought it was a ploy to get sewer to Cherokee Rd. and a lift station. He said he found it hard to believe that the properties in question were given to the town with out some verbal understanding with the  people on the property.

He also said the 14 acres on Ida Tucker could be the golden nugget and the town should research.

Doris Cole urged Council to think about the property use before it is sold. She urged council to be careful of the legal advice. “We are growing and learning from this situation. People are participating and want to stay informed,” she said. “It is a joy to me to see something come out of this. We can only go up from here.”

Keith Cole spoke of the history of the area and the future of the town. 

Cole said that some properties were given  to the town for the purpose of being a part of Williamston and some have significance historically.

“This is the history of the town,” he said. “Once gone we won’t be able to get it back.”

Council met Tuesday, Mar. 28, to make final decisions on the properties to be listed for the auction. (See separate story)

State Retirement forgoes interest

By Stan Welch

The State Budget and Control Board has, as part of the payment plan worked out with the town of Williamston, agreed to forgo all interest payments on the delinquent amount, which came to $116,869 when the agreement was reached. That waiver of interest is dependent on the Town meeting its future obligations.

The payment plan, accepted by the SB&CB in a letter dated February 2, 2006, calls for 18 monthly payments of $6492.72 until the total balance is paid. If those payments are made on time, resulting in payment in full, and if all future payments to the state retirement system are made in a timely manner, the accrued interest, amounting to approximately $7000, according to Joe Newton, will be forgiven.

Any failure to meet the terms of the agreement, according to the letter, issued by Peggy Boykin, Director of the South Carolina Retirement Systems, will result in the reinstatement of all statutorily allowed interest and the resumption of additional collection efforts.

GWBA making plans for events

The Greater Williamston Business Association has big plans for the area including an Easter promotion, golf tournament and working to return the town to its former status as a tourist town.

With the help of a recently hired parttime Executive Director, Dan Davis, the organization is working to coordinate several projects and increasing  membership. As part of his duties, Davis will work in promoting the GWBA and the Williamston area.

During the monthly meeting of the organization on March 21, members of the organization discussed the annual Easter Egg Hunt, set for April 8 beginning at 9 a.m. Dr. Marion Williams, who heads the project for the GWBA, stated that it is done strictly for the kids and is not for profit. He said the Career and Technology Center had agreed to provide a playhouse constructed by students at the center as a grand prize. A giant Easter basket will also be given away along with other prizes donated by local businesses.

The event will include face painting, balloons, and pictures with the Easter Bunny. Williams also stated that volunteers are needed to help with the event. Prizes and donations are also needed from GWBA members.

There was also some discussion about events Williamston is known for which have been discontinued by the Town. Speaking to the group, Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said the town is asking the GWBA and citizens to help with the projects which include the July 4th fireworks, the Spring Water Festival, Christmas parade and Christmas Park. There was some discussion about a citizens committee reorganizing for the purpose of continuing the Spring Water Festival. This year marks the 25th year for the annual festival which is held on the fourth Saturday of August.

The GWBA is also planning their annual golf tournament set for May 12 at Saluda Valley Country Club.

There was additional discussion about returning the town to its status as a tourist town and possibly hosting a festival for multiple days or even weeks. Realtor Hugh Durham and Mayor Clardy also addressed the group, presenting information concerning the town’s property sale.

GWBA Easter egg hunt Apr. 8

The Greater Williamston Business Association will sponsor the annual Easter Egg Hunt for ages 10 and under on Saturday, April 8, in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park.

Ages and time schedules are as follows: under three - 9:30 a.m., ages four and five - 10 a.m., ages six and seven - 10:30 a.m., and ages eight to ten - 11 a.m.

Drawings for prizes and grand prizes will be held for each age group. At the conclusion of the last hunt, a drawing for a playhouse constructed by students at the Career and Technology Center will be held. A giant Easter basket will also be given away.

In case of inclement weather, the rain date for the event will be the following Saturday, Apr. 15.

Dr. Marion Williams, who heads the project for the GWBA, stated that it is done strictly for the kids and is not for profit. He said the Career and Technology Center had agreed to provide a playhouse constructed by students at the center as a grand prize. A giant Easter basket will also be given away.

The event will include face painting, balloons and pictures with the Easter Bunny.

Ride for Pelzer Sk8 park

The Town of Pelzer with the help of motorcyclists will sponsor a bike ride fundraiser on Saturday, April 1 to benefit Pelzer’s children. Proceeds from the event will go toward remodeling, relocating, and rebuilding the Pelzer Sk8 Park. The ride will begin at the Pelzer Ballpark with registration from 10 a.m. to noon. The last bike will leave at noon and entertainment and festivities are planned at the final stop.

Joining The Town of Pelzer in organizing the ride will be the Greenville’s Hells Angels and Greenwood Chrome Divas. Town Council and local residents will also support the event. “We needed help planning the bike run and B. J. Mullinax from Greenville’s Hells Angels and Michael Mullinax from Greenwood Chrome Divas offered to assist because they are devoted to helping children in their area,” said Pelzer Mayor Kenneth Davis.

The Town of Pelzer is planning to build the largest skate park in Anderson County to offer local children a state-of-the-art recreational facility, officials said. Proceeds from the fundraiser are to be used in the expansion of the already successful Pelzer Sk8 Park.

With the collaboration of the sponsors, the spring ride is expected to be entertaining and eventful with door prizes, barbecue plates, vendors, a 50/50 drawing, and a live band, Lost Cause. “All bikers are welcome and we plan to have fun while trying to help our kids,” said Davis. “We look forward to a big turnout.”

Wren student arrested for disrupting school

A 16 year old male student at Wren High School, in Anderson District One was arrested today, Friday, in connection with a disruption at the school which which began with graffiti and internet postings.

According to District One Assistant Superintendant David Havird, graffiti at the school, talk among students and specific postings on a popular teen website, myspace.com, indictated that “something bad would happen at Wren High School.”

Havird said that investigation by school officials and resource officers determined that the intent of the student was to cause a disruption and to scare students.

Though there were no specific threats toward school officials or specific students, Havird said. The internet postings indicated that “there would be a disruption on a certain day.”

Parents and students expressed concerns about the situation Havird said. “Several parents called with concerns,” he said.

Extra resource officers were posted at the school Friday, and with the help of students, were able to pinpoint the person responsible for the school disruption.

Havird said the student will be recommended for expulsion.

Havird said school officials can not tolerate threats and disruption of the school environment.

School funding by State may increase for 2006/2007

Anderson District One School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler told  Board members that he expects to present a draft budget for the new school year by April 25, which he said depending on State funding, will include $77 more per student than last year.

According to information provided by Fowler, the 2007 projected EFA base student cost will be $2,367.

He said the district is projected to receive approximately $1,469,993 more than last year. Approximately $500,000 will go to minimum salary increases for district employees.

The projected SC average teacher salary for 2007 is $43,991, or $300 above the projected South East average teacher salary. The actual average salary for teachers in the state is presently $42,189. The District One average teacher salary is $44,655.

Fowler said if the State budget funding holds, District teachers will see a 2.54 percent raise.

He also reported that the District One index of tax paying ability has gone down resulting in a greater percentage of funding coming from the state. According to financial director Steve Uldrick, the percent of funding from the state will go from 77 percent to 79 percent.

Fowler also reported that the District will receive approximately $14,000 in Hurricane reimbursement funds from the state for displaced students who attended District One schools.

According to Assistant Superintendent David Havird, there were 19 displaced students, one a special needs student, in District One schools as a result of hurricanes.

According to Havird, the District will receive reimbursement funding of $750 per student and $937 for the special needs student.

The funds will be used for after school program and supplies at Hunt Meadows Elementary.

Some of the students are still in District One though most have returned to their homes, Havird said.

Dr. Fowler reported that nine of 11 schools in the District will be recognized for closing the achievement gap between groups of students. “This has to be one of the highest percentages in the State,” he said.

During his instructional report, Dr. John Pruitt presented information on high school redesign research provided by the state. The recommendations are supposed to increase academic rigor, provide a more personalized education for students with the  goal of improving the state’s graduation rate and encouraging secondary education to the point of completion.

The report included numerous recommendations, many of which Anderson District One has already implemented or is working toward.

Dr. Pruitt said the recommendation by the state commission also includes a state funded initiative to place a career counselor position at all middle schools.

Havird reported that the student nutritional services served 125,576 meals in February and showed a profit of $63,488. Year to date profit for the program is $280,951.

Havird reported that new equipment will be added at elementary schools and that a Breakfast in the Classroom program will begin soon for all 140 students at Pelzer Elementary school with assistance from Palmetto Middle School.

Board members unanimously approved second reading on revised policies including GCC, professional staff leaves and absences; GCD, professional staff vacations and holidays; GDC, support staff leave and absences and GDD, support staff vacations and holidays.

The board also unanimously approved first reading on new policies for IHBEA, English for speakers of other languages; AC, nondiscrimination and equal opportunity; JLCD, administering medicine to students and individual health care plans for students.

The medical policy changes primarily affect students with serious health care issues allowing them to self monitor and administer medications under certain circumstances, Dr. Fowler said.

Dr. Fowler reported that grading for the bus centralization at Spearman Elementary has been completed and gravel has been brought in. The lot will be paved, gates installed and lines painted in the next two weeks.

Fowler also said an addition to a portable building being used as the bus office at the location will allow meetings and training on site.

“This will definitely be better for student transportation in this district,” Fowler said.

The Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding for the Gateway College program with Tri County Technical College and another with Clemson University for the Stronger Communities program.

They then went into executive session to discuss a contractural and personnel matter.

Upon returning to regular session, the board approved hiring MBAJ Architects to design plans for the renovation of the Spearman Elementary kitchen and expansion of the Palmetto High cafeteria.

The Board also approved personnel and faculty recommendations by Dr. Fowler. 

Greenville Drive mascot designed by Wren elementary art team

The new Greenville Drive baseball team now has a new mascot, compliments of Angela Hembree, a fifth grader at Wren Elementary School.

Hembree worked with her art teacher Fran Bailey, and PE and student council advisor David Vaughn and other student council representatives to come up with the winning entry that would become the Greenville Drive mascot, a friendly frog name Reedy Rip’It.

Full size artwork representing the new mascot was unveiled during a special presentation at the school recently in which Hembree was recognized for her contribution.

Hembree was presented her original artwork in a framed piece that included final artwork of the Reedy Rip’It mascot. The entire school was brought outside for the presentation which included the Greenville Drive general manager Mike deMaine, team owner and president Craig Brown and other representatives of the organization.

“I was not envious of our judges who had to decide between all  of the wonderfully creative entries our upstate kids submitted for mascot consideration,” deMaine said. “But Reedy Rip’It is the perfect addition to our team. We’re so excited about all of the possibilities Reedy brings with him and look forward to officially introducing him to all Greenville Drive fans.”

According to Reedy’s bio, which was submitted as part of the contest, he was born and makes his home in the Reedy River Falls. During the spring and summer months, Reedy makes his way to the new West End Stadium in downtown Greenville to enjoy the baseball season with family and friends.

He likes to camouflage his body on the mini “Green Monster” in left field, and will jump out unexpectedly to instill fear in the team’s opponents.

Reedy’s hobbies include chasing long flies, making leaping catches, swimming in the Reedy River, playing leapfrog and attending sock hops.

Wren Elementary Student Council was also instrumental in the process and were recognized during the presentation.

Fourth grade representatives included Megan Barker, Alicia Gouine, Hope Johnson and Jaile Long. Fifth grader representatives are Jayu Baker, Kristen Corley and Carson McCoy.

Working from Hembree’s original design, Wren Elementary art teacher Fran Bailey came up with art that was turned into the final design. Also helping on the design team were teacher assistant Pam Prescott and computer lab director Dawn Nichols. Mark McCall is principal at the school.

The Wren Elementary entry was chosen from more than 50 upstate elementary, public, private and home school institutions. As the winning school, Wren Elementary will receive a check for $1,000 at the second Drive homestand in late April. Hembree and her design team and teachers will be invited onto the field and will be recognized over the PA system prior to the start of the game.

According to Drive officials, Reedy Rip’It will spend the next several weeks being outfitted for his game day uniform, and will be ready to make his official debut on Thursday, April 20, when the team takes on the Savannah Sand Gnats.

The Greenville Drive is the Class A affiliate of the Major League Baseball Boston Red Sox. They will kick off their inaugural season next Thursday, April 6 at 7:05 p.m. against the Columbus Carfish in the new downtown West End Field.

Individual game tickets will go on sale Friday, March 31, at 10 a.m. 

Tickets will be on sale online at www.greenvilledrive.com or at the team’s store, located at 15 N. Main St. in downtown Greenville.

There is limited availability for the Drive’s Opening Day game against the Columbia Catfish, but there are still plenty of tickets available for the remaining three games being played opening weekend, as well as for games throughout the season.

The pricing of individual tickets is as follows:

Box seats, which are $8, have the comfort of seatbacks and armrests, and are close to the action on the field.

Reserved seats are $6.50 and also offer seatbacks and armrests, just a few rows behind the box seat section.

General admission is only $5. General admission seating offers both bleacher and seatback options and are first come, first served.

Children 2 and under can enter each game for free. There will be a $4 processing fee per order charged for those tickets purchased via the Internet.

“Greenville Drive tickets are a tremendous entertainment value. From the first pitch to the last out, fans will enjoy themselves,” said Mike deMaine, Greenville Drive general manager. “We hope everyone will have the opportunity to experience Greenville Drive baseball this season.”

deMaine, who is originally from Charlotte and was a member of the USC baseball team noted, “I’m delighted to be back in the Carolinas and am looking forward to leading the Drive to bring great baseball, community involvement and fun for fans of all ages to the Upstate through our baseball operation.”

For more information, or to inquire about 2006 season tickets, visit www.greenvilledrive.com or call 864-240-4500.

 

Undercover incident continues to draw attention

By Stan Welch

Recent events, including the startling announcement of an undercover operation involving the alleged stalking and harassment of County Administrator Joey Preston, has resulted in a flurry of requests for information by various media outlets and elected officials.

The results of those various requests have been mixed. Perhaps the most public effect of the searches for information has been the persistent airing of what has become known as Catergate; a reference to both Watergate, the most famous scandal in 20th century American politics, and Cater’s Lake, the site of the supposed undercover operation designed to ferret out Preston’s stalkers.

WAIM-AM Radio, under the direction of on air personality Rick Driver, first aired its report on Catergate on the Monday following the Friday night incident, which resulted in several Anderson City Police cruisers converging on the park. Once there, they found County Administrator Joey Preston with an unnamed female, reported to be a county employee, as well as several other cars with occupants in them at the lake.

While no official incident report was filed, Driver spoke with the supervising officer involved the very next morning, before he had ended his shift and gone home. The following Monday, he discussed the incident on the air, and it quickly became a topic of widespread public interest. As the week progressed and public interest grew, Driver had two people who claimed to have witnessed  Preston and the unnamed female engaged in intimate behavior come on the air and tell their version of the events at the lake.

Interest continued to grow, and so did the pressure on Preston to explain his presence at the lake that night. Finally, on March 21, at a County Council meeting which was packed with more than 250 people, Chief of Detectives Tim Busha, at the request of Council Chair Larry Greer, revealed that his department, with the cooperation of Preston and other county employees, had in fact been setting up Preston’s stalkers by sending the administrator into the park on the night in question. Sheriff David Crenshaw stood beside Busha as the operation was explained.

Busha went on to say that more than 75 harassing letters had been received, not just by Preston, but by other employees and council members; letters he repeatedly described as vulgar and salacious. He stated that the investigation had been underway for several months, and that a great deal of physical evidence had been gathered.

Following Busha’s presentation, Preston read an emotional statement to the audience and Council in which he likened the alleged stalkers to terrorists, and blamed politics as the motivation for the attacks on him and his family. On the day of the Council meeting, one of the two witnesses who appeared on the radio show, was interviewed by SLED agents, and released. As of press time, more than a week after the investigation was revealed, no charges have been filed in the case.

The following day, Chief Busha surprised Driver on the air, and demanded to know if the radio host was calling Busha and Sheriff Crenshaw liars in regards to their explanation of the investigation. Driver said he was not, but repeated that there were many questions about the investigation as Busha explained it. Busha told Driver that he would understand the entire picture in the “fullness of time”.

Later that week, Driver and other media sources, received transcripts of the radio traffic which occurred during the call for service to Cater Lake, as well as a CAD recording of the transmissions. There was a remarkable absence of conversation reflected by those records, even after the McNair Law Firm mistakenly released unredacted copies of the transcripts, as well as the blacked out copies. On the blacked out copies, the only information visible were strings of numbers and letters that were unintelligible. On the clear copies, the information obtained by the officers concerning the registrations of the various vehicles could be read; thus providing several clues to the identity of the unnamed female, who has yet to be identified by any law enforcement officials.

So serious was the error considered to be that McNair attorney Jay Tothacer contacted at least one newspaper and asked them to withhold the information provided. The reporter declined to honor that request, saying that the information had been confirmed independently. Driver says he received a call from Tothacer telling him to shred the materials and not broadcast anything contained in them. “He was a little late calling me,” said Driver, in a telephone interview. “We had already done a three hour show about it that very day.”

Another piece of information that has been highly sought after is the November 28, 2005 memorandum referred to by Preston in his statement to the Council. In it, Preston claims he informed the Council of the harassment and of the investigation, and encouraged them to seek law enforcement assistance if they became targets of such acts. At least two newspapers, including The Journal, have executed Freedom of Information requests seeking copies of the memo.

So has District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson who says she has no recollection of receiving such a memorandum. “I remember a memo from around that time, but it referred to some anonymous allegations of improper behavior by other County employees. I don’t recall anything about stalking and harassment and an investigation.”

Several other Council members, asked about the memo on the night of Preston’s statement, also had no recollection of the memo; though some of them later recalled receiving both the memo and harassing letters themselves.

According to Linda Edelmann, Clerk to the Council, the FOIA requests were forwarded to the county attorney for review; a marked change in procedure from past FOIA requests made by The Journal. The fifteen working day response period allowed by state law has not expired.

Other FOIA requests made by The Journal have been complied with according to the law. One of the  requests was for the expense involved in preparing a presentation by Solid Waste Manager Vic Carpenter several weeks ago, in which he claimed that Councilwoman Cindy Wilson’s opposition to the Beaverdam sewer project had cost the County over $7 million. Carpenter provided an accounting of those expenses which came to approximately $200, according to his response.

Another request for information concerning the South Carolina National Guard’s purchase of the old Lowe’s building was sent to County Administrator Joey Preston. After two weeks, the request was returned with the explanation that the SCNG is not a County agency and therefore, no such information is available. That FOIA request has since been sent to SCNG headquarters.

Ed Jean announces for County Council District 7

By Stan Welch

Edwin R. Jean has declared his candidacy for the District Seven County Council seat currently held by Cindy Wilson. Jean filed to run as a Democrat last week, but announced his candidacy earlier this week. “I had told The Journal that I would call them when I was ready to announce, and I did,” said Jean.

Jean, 65, has been retired since 2000, though he continues to work at Tucker’s, an Anderson restaurant, where he is a “meeter, greeter and seater,’ says Jean.  “ It’s really more of a hobby, to keep me busy, but I don’t mind getting paid for it.” Jean and his wife of 38 years, Sandy, live near T.L. Hanna High School. Said Jean, laughingly, “Make sure everyone knows we have horses, just like Cindy Wilson.”

He says he is running because he thinks that the long running feud between Wilson and county administrator Joey Preston makes her ineffective in representing the people of District Seven. “Pure and simple, I feel, as a citizen of District 7, that Ms. Wilson is not representing her overall constituency. She can’t build a consensus, and she is hurting both her district and County as a whole,” said Jean.

“I just think it’s time for a change. I don’t have any specific agenda, although I’m in the process of forming my campaign platform. But I do feel that the line between elected representative and private citizen gets blurred sometimes with Ms. Wilson. I will represent the entire district if I’m elected.”

Wilson and Preston have been engaged in several legal fights, including the current writ of mandamus petition brought by Wilson to force Preston to release legal and financial records which she says are public information. She has been a consistent critic of Preston’s, and Jean has both supported her on some issues, as well as questioning her effectiveness as a result of that constant criticism.

Yet, said Jean, he would almost always show another Council member the courtesy of offering a second to their motions, in order to allow for discussion in a public forum. “It’s hard to understand why Ms. Wilson can’t at least receive that courtesy from the rest of the members. I understand that if she tries to bring something up over and over, you might finally decide, ‘no, not again.’ But the first two or three times a subject comes up, let’s see if there’s any new information. What’s wrong with that?”

Jean, who regularly attends County Council meetings, and frequently speaks during the citizens’ comments portion of the agenda, says he is qualified for the job. “I have attended probably 95% of the council meetings in the last few years, except for last fall, when I went back to refereeing football games. I attend many of the planning and zoning board meetings, as well as various citizen advisory meetings. I’ve been to several District 5 school board meetings, and a few meetings of the County Board of Education. I don’t say this in a bragging manner, but I’m as well qualified as anyone in terms of involvement and awareness of the issues.”

Jean anticipates facing charges of being a water carrier for Joey Preston, a charge he adamantly denies. “I do approve of many of the steps he has taken, but there are other areas where I disagree with him. It wouldn’t hurt if he would realize that not everything he does is automatically right.  If I am elected, I will, in due time and in the proper manner, ask difficult questions, when they are called for. I will also be willing to make difficult decisions concerning the county’s finances and operations. I understand that certain people in the county and in the media consider me to be Joey’s guy, but that is untrue. I am my own man, and I will continue to be.”

Jean also denies that he was put up to run against Wilson. “No one had asked me to run. It is my decision and my campaign. I believe I can serve the people of District Seven and Anderson County effectively, and that’s what I intend to do.”

Seems to Me . . .Upcoming elections

By Stan Welch

 Well, I’ m preparing for my first election cycle as a resident of Anderson County, as well as a reporter. If early indications are at all accurate, it promises to be a doozy of an election year.

 From what I’ve seen, Anderson County is as politically divided as any place in the state. I always used to say that Horry County was schizophrenic, because the interests of those who live east of the Intracoastal Water were so different from those of the people west of the ICW.

But those lines have become blurred as development has jumped the big ditch, and as tobacco’s decline as a crop has lessened the importance of farming in the county.

 Still, if Horry County was schizophrenic, Anderson County suffers from multiple personalities. There are the retired Yankees, who sold a 3Br 2Ba home for $400,000 in Connecticut or someplace, and came down here needing to spend that money to keep the tax man’s hands off of it. So they built a five bedroom, half brick, half vinyl siding home and gladly paid $200,000 or more for it.

 Then there are the old timers, the natives, the hard shell Republicans who can’t imagine government doing anything right, or giving value for the dollar spent, no matter what. I can say without fear of contradiction that I have never lived anywhere that has such a strong conservative strain of financial and political philosophy. Salt Lake City might come close, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.

 The tension between those philosophies is natural and sustained. Adding to it is a coincident tension between those who consider professional government as defined by Home Rule to be the end all and be all for running Anderson County and those who think that a hired administrator is still subject to control and supervision by the elected officials of the County. Those parallel lines of tension aren’t always exactly coordinated as to the earlier distinctions drawn between recent arrivals and old timers, but they are pretty close.

 So, we have an upcoming election cycle that will be strongly influenced by these opposing philosophies and beliefs. Why, good gosh, there are even Democrats signing up to run this year. Add to that the natural lightning rod that is county administrator Joey Preston, and it proves to be a stormy summer, indeed.

 In fact, based on the number and variety of candidates offering for office from the various districts, this election shows many signs of being a referendum on Joey Preston as much as it is a contest of political philosophies, or fiscal policies.

 Rightly or wrongly, Preston is seen by many as a champion of growth and modern, professional administration. Also rightly or wrongly, he is seen by at least that many as a symbol of shady dealings, unrestrained spending, a confrontational attitude towards at least one of the members of County Council, and a general arrogance towards the elected officials of the County that many find infuriating.

 An extra dollop of spice has recently been added to the stew, with Preston’s claims of harassed and stalked; claims which many feel were generated in order to cover up an embarrassing episode which took place at a local park about three weeks ago. Those claims have been loudly and passionately supported by Chief Deputy Tim Busha to the point of defending Preston, if not to the point of satisfying many questions involving both the episode and law enforcement’s explanation of it. Regardless of one’s opinion of Preston’s alleged behavior, or view of the evidence in the case, it is not an issue that is likely to go away. It is the talk of the county, and Preston’s critics seem likely to do their best to keep it alive.

 Busha, I suppose can at least be granted the leeway usually given to one seeking an elected office. It is tempting in the extreme to interpret his very vocal and public involvement in the alleged harassment of Preston as the opening shots in his campaign for the Sheriff’s job. It is equally tempting to see Sheriff David Crenshaw’s willingness to let Busha drive the bus as a sign that he has made his decision about whether to seek another term or not.

The point is Preston is at the center of the political storm this election year; given his rather unseemly propensity for intimate involvement in the County’s politics, he is likely to remain there.

Based on what I’ve seen of the local political scene in Anderson County, I anticipate a nasty, rough election year. I would caution the voters to sort and sift the information they receive very carefully. There is a tremendous amount at stake in this election. For some, it is money and power that are on the table; for others, it is a chance to change the way they think the County is being run. Regardless of the side you may be on, the game promises to be hard fought, and more than occasionally dirty.

 Seems to me it should be a heck of a show, but it won’t be for the faint hearted. Stay tuned, and keep reading your local paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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