News Archive


(2308) Week of June 4, 2008

Voters go to primary polls Tuesday
Court rules against writ of mandamus
C. Wilson being sued for libel
Five arrested in Wren break-in
Budget amendment requires receipts for credit card transactions
New zoning ordinance approved, does not address some sign issues
Picnic in the Park with Miss Williamston
Allen fourth to announce for mayor
West Pelzer approves truck, no action taken on police cars

Voters go to primary polls Tuesday

By Stan Welch

Next Tuesday, the politicking will be over and the voting will begin. The June 10th primary will be held, and the following races will be decided, because there is no Democratic opposition in the fall.

 Anderson County Council

 District One – Incumbent Bob Waldrep, has challenged the county administrator’s accounting practices, as well as his determination to control the flow of information, even from elected officials. Waldrep says the entire council has abdicated its responsibilities. Challengers Brooks Brown IV, and Stuart Mackay disagree with that view and seem generally satisfied with the direction Council is moving in. Greater harmony would be helpful to the county.

District Two – Republican Bill Holder will face Democratic incumbent Gracie Floyd in November.

District Three – Incumbent Larry Greer faces Eddie Moore. Greer has recently positioned himself as more of a watchdog, introducing legislation to tighten accountability on the use of county credit cards. Moore has promised to “stop the partying” that he says goes on at the expense of the taxpayer.

District Four – Incumbent Bill McAbee has faced questions concerning his own use of county credit cards to pursue economic development deals, at least one which resulted in a land transaction for which he and his appointee to the economic development board received a real estate commission.

The challenger, Tom Allen, is a member of the executive committee of the Anderson county Republican Party. Allen is a veteran of the District Four School Board, and his candidacy is widely seen as a sign of the party’s displeasure with some of McAbee’s positions and actions in recent months.

District Five – This is the most crowded race, as incumbent and current Council Chairman Michael Thompson has drawn the ire of many. His labeling of  a local taxpayers’ group as terrorists fed a fledgling movement to replace him, followed by what many see as his efforts to stifle dissent by manipulating the agendas of Council meetings. He counters that he is seeking harmony and efficiency.

 Tommy Dunn is one of his challengers, who has issues with the lack of accountability in the administration and Council’s willingness to turn over responsibility to county administrator Joey Preston.

Skip Gilmer challenged Thompson last time, and is back again. He stresses open, honest government, and would seek a full audit of the county’s books. Brother Bailey is a local businessman who is opposed to tax increases and would like to see spending curtailed.

District Six – Incumbent Ron Wilson has had to fight back from a zoning fiasco last year in his district. His strategy has been to aggressively attack a proposed construction and demolition landfill proposed in his district.

He has also faced questions from his challenger Rick Freemantle, about Wilson’s daughter receiving a consulting contract from the county. Freemantle has also questioned Wilson’s support for a proposed budget that increases county spending by $25 million over last year.

District Seven – Incumbent Cindy Wilson is seeking her fifth term. Her recent loss before the Supreme Court on her writ of mandamus lawsuit to compel Preston to provide financial records of the county, as well as a libel lawsuit filed against her by a county employee this week, promise to make this race against political newcomer Doug Hooper, closer than previous races. Hooper, who was recruited by Councilman Ron Wilson to oppose Ms. Wilson, has offered little in the way of detail about his views. His theme is to lead through promoting unity.

Tenth Circuit Solicitor

Chrissy Adams is the incumbent, and has defended her philosophy that she should manage the office and let her staff function. She points to her increased number of arrests of child molesters as evidence of her aggressiveness.

Sarah Drawdy, challenger and former assistant solicitor under Druanne White, says Adams is afraid to go into court, and that a solicitor should try cases, and not just be an office manager. She says the overcrowded jail is a result of Adams reducing court time.

This race promises to be one of the closest of the entire primary.

 Anderson County Sheriff

This race also promises to be very close, as incumbent David Crenshaw faces John Skipper, who spent sixteen years in the Taylor administration, as well as sixteen years in Lexington county.

Crenshaw has faced serious questions about his business acumen, following the imposing of a 4.5 mil tax increase last year to help him address financial difficulties in the department. He argues that he was elected to provide aggressive law enforcement, and that is what he’s done. He says his department is winning the war on illegal drugs and has closed more than a hundred meth labs.

Skipper says he will reorganize the department structure and make Anderson County one of the safest counties in the state, if not the country. He says Crenshaw’s duty rosters show that he is not providing adequate coverage to the county.

 

Court rules against writ of mandamus

The South Carolina Supreme Court announced Monday that it has ruled against a writ of mandamus sought by District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson. The case has been in the courts for four years.

Wilson has sought access to legal and financial records of the County, saying that county administrator Joey Preston denied her such access. 

Wilson initially sued Preston in November 3, 2004 claiming denials of information from Preston and the Council. Her claims were rejected by Judge Alex Macaulay, of the 10th Judicial Circuit, on May 15, 2006 and Wilson appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that he is providing such access, but not in the manner or within the time frame that Wilson demanded. The Court ruled that such demands are not within the authority of an elected official.

The ruling effectively gives complete control of the flow of information to Preston, in the absence of a vote by a majority of Council to the contrary. One of the factors involved in the decision was an ordinance passed in 2003 which Preston introduced and which allowed him to set the priorities for the performance of his duties. That ordinance effectively allowed him to put compliance with requests for information at the bottom of his list of duties to be performed.

According to a press release issued by Roe Cassidy Coates & Price PA, Wilson’s requests for the narrative detail of legal bills and for the waiver of the attorney-client privilege as to that narrative detail were also rejected by the Court.

Wilson received summaries of the legal bills and expenditures on County legal matters but did not receive specific detail of legal work actually performed.

According to the press release, Wilson’s intent, as stated to the Supreme Court, was for her to independently waive the attorney-client privilege by making the documents public.

The Court recognized the historical importance of the attorney-client privilege in promoting confidential disclosures between an attorney and a client, the news release said. In this case, the client was Anderson County. The Court unanimously rejected Wilson’s claim and held that “Wilson, as a council member, cannot independently review attorney-client privileged documents.”

In an additional concurring opinion, Chief Justice Toal, joined by Justice Pleicones, wrote that Wilson’s claims should not have even been in court.

Toal wrote that the claims were not properly brought in the Court and that Wilson “essentially asks the Court to delve into internal disputes among Anderson County Council members and to overturn the Council’s decisions.” The Chief Justice’s opinion adds that the issues are political questions, they infringe upon the separation of powers, they are not properly before the court, and Wilson’s request should be denied.

“Our actions (County Council and myself) in protecting the interests of the County were affirmed by the Supreme Court,” said Anderson County Administrator Joey R. Preston. “As the Court has issued its decision in this lengthy legal battle lasting almost four years, this final unsuccessful attempt by Wilson should bring finality to what some deemed a “political” issue and allow us to get our complete focus back to the business of Anderson County.”

Wilson released the following statement:

“I have reviewed the Supreme court’s decision and while I am disappointed, I certainly respect its ruling. I believe that this highlights now, more than ever, the need to elect a council that believes in a government which is truly accountable to its citizens. Without a change in the current makeup of our council, the administrator will continue to delay and effectively deny the taxpayers access to information to which they are entitled; information regarding expenditures made with their money. The ordinance enacted by council in 2003 has, in effect, stopped the timely dissemination of information regarding public funds. I ask the taxpayers and concerned citizens of Anderson to join together June 10th to elect a council whose members put the best interests of those they serve above their own.”

C. Wilson being sued for libel

By Stan Welch

Just before the special called meeting of the Anderson County Council Tuesday afternoon, County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was served with papers indicating that county employee Brandon J. Grace is suing her for $5 million for libel.

The lawsuit is in response to information posted on Wilson’s election website. An article titled “How to stack a poker deck” alleges unethical behavior by Grace while conducting a fund-raising contest for the Special Olympics. The prize included a trip for two to the 2007 Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, ND. The $3000 prize included shipping the motorcycles out to Sturgis, as well as travel and lodging for the winners.

Susan McMahan, director if Special Olympics Area 14, denies any impropriety on Grace’s part, and reports that a man named Steve Klaybur won the prize.

Wilson said she has not had time to study the lawsuit, and is trying to contact the administrator of her website to determine what information is on the website.

“I am unaware of anything that is on the website right now. I simply haven’t seen it, but I certainly am looking into it. It’s difficult to campaign when you keep getting hit with one thing after another like this,” she said.

Five arrested in Wren break-in

Five subjects were arrested in the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 4, while burglarizing Wren High school. Deputy K.J. Winn responded to an alarm at the school and saw three subjects flee the building as he arrived. He apprehended one at the scene, and soon located and arrested the other two. Eventually, two others were also arrested. They had served as lookouts. Three of the five were juveniles and the information concerning their identities was withheld, according to state law. All three, however, were 16 years old and had Piedmont addresses.

Two of the subjects were 17 years old. Jesse Lee Rigdon, WM, 103 Zippo Pine Dr., in Williamston, and William Tyler Smith, WM, 315 Exeter Close, in Easley, were arrested and charged with one count each of burglary. They remain in custody at the Anderson County Detention Center.

Five arrested in Wren school breakinFather, son arrested for manufacturing marijuana

Two men, Andrew Muse Patton, WM, 25,and his father, James Mitchell Patton, WM, 52, were arrested this week for manufacturing marijuana. Acting on a tip, ACSO narcotics agents raided the house at 112 Browning Rd. They found fifteen plants in the yard, and, after obtaining a search warrant, an additional 47plants inside.

 The men were arrested and remain in Anderson County Detention Center.

Arrest made in Piedmont fire

 ACSO agents also made an arrest this week in connection to a fire on May 17th of this year at the Parts Place auto parts store at 109 Hurricane Creek Road.

Following an investigation, Christopher R. Kennedy, WM, 17, of 168 Old Pelzer Road in Greenville county, was arrested and charged with one count of arson in the second degree, one count of burglary in the first degree, and one count of petit larceny. He remains in the Anderson County Detention Center on a $50,000 surety bond.

Budget amendment requires receipts for credit card transactions

By Stan Welch

History of a sort was made at Tuesday night’s Council meeting. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson stunned the rest of Council by voting for the proposed 2008-2009 budget, the first time in her eight years on Council she has done so.

Just prior to the vote Councilman Ron Wilson chided Ms. Wilson, saying, “She has never voted for a single budget that has come before this Council, in twenty two times. I don’t expect her to do any different this time.”

Wilson emphasized that her vote was spurred by two amendments to the proposed budget ordinance. 

One amendment, proposed by Councilman Larry Greer, would require that all transactions involving county credit cards be accompanied by detailed receipts and a written report of the expenditures. The amendment would also establish a committee of the Council, composed of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman and one other member to produce a specific policy on the use of county credit cards.

Ms. Wilson quickly seconded that amendment. In response to a question from Council, County Administrator Joey Preston conceded that the county has such a policy in place.

Councilman Waldrep agreed, but pointed out, “We are not following it. There is a crying need to bring accountability to this matter. The records that Ms. Wilson and I viewed earlier this year were an absolute mish mash of records and paperwork. We need an iron clad policy that applies to everyone. As I’ve said before, we are all equal, but some of us appear to be more equal than others. Nevertheless, I applaud Mr. Greer’s proposal.”

Councilwoman Gracie Floyd questioned both the need for the amendment as well as the motivation behind it. “This came up because somebody was looking for something to do. We never used to have questions about credit card fraud and such. This is just somebody looking for something to do. We have a policy. Now, I’m looking at this amendment and I’m being asked to fix something I didn’t even know was wrong.”

She asked Preston to explain the current policy, a duty he quickly passed to county financial analyst Gina Humpheys. She informed Council that there is in fact detailed backup documentation for credit card expenditures. She also told Council that she thinks the county is lagging behind on its per diem meal allowance, which is currently 28 dollars.

“This is something we need to look at. Federal guidelines are $39 a day in high cost areas, and the Upstate is considered a high cost area. It’s something we need to look at.”

Councilman Ron Wilson asked Humphreys why some Council members felt they had not been shown backup documentation when they asked for it. Humphreys explained that there were a lot of news agencies asking for such information at that time. “They made copies, which sometimes required taking the files apart. That is unsettling,” she said.

“But if these members came to you now that we have this Supreme Court case out of the way, could they see the backup they want to see?”

Humphreys replied, “I work for Mr. Preston, so we would ask him first if we should provide that information.”

Ms. Wilson pointed out that she first requested access to the credit card records in September of 2007. 

“We finally were allowed to see them six months later, in February of this year. We weren’t allowed to make copies ourselves, and we didn’t receive the copies we requested until Mr. Waldrep paid several hundred dollars out of his own pocket. That’s the policy we apparently have.”

The amendment was eventually passed by a vote of 5-2, with Floyd and Chairman Thompson voting against it. 

 Greer’s second amendment, to begin employee raises at the start of the fiscal year, rather than in January, also drew Floyd’s ire. 

“We didn’t do this last time. We started the raises in January. This is just for show. It’s election year folks. Mr. Greer wants the administrator to come up with a plan to do this. A  plan. Oh, I get it. It’s election year. So now we have to do something different.”

To begin the raises at the start of the fiscal year would cost approximately $200,000 in the general fund, and approximately $500,000 in the Sheriff’s Department, according to Preston.

That amendment passed by a vote of 4-3,with councilman McAbee joining Floyd and Thompson in voting against it.

 Before the second reading vote on the entire budget ordinance, Ms. Wilson referred to a $250,000 appropriation for the Watkins Building in Honea Path, asking Preston where that appeared in the budget.

“I can’t find that project listed here, and I would like to know what the funding is for that.”

Preston responded that the language of the budget ordinance would authorize issuing a general obligation bond to provide funding for such projects.

“If Council passes this budget, that language will kick in and the bond will be authorized.”

Upon voting for the budget, as amended, Wilson told Preston she was assuming a good faith effort from him to provide the numbers on that project by the third reading.

Representatives of the AFJROTC unit from Palmetto High School, under Lt. Colonel Mike Creamer, were on hand as the unit was honored with a resolution acknowledging their receipt of the Distinguished Unit Award for the second year in a row. Councilwoman Cindy Wilson read the resolution before presenting it to the Colonel.

New zoning ordinance approved, does not address some sign issues

During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved second reading on the town’s new zoning ordinance then immediately discussed nuisance abatement which the new zoning ordinance allows.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said the ordinance gives the town a way to deal with high grass on vacant lots.

Clardy said the property owners, many of whom do not live in the town, or even the state, are sent certified letters. If there is no response, Clardy said the town can cut the grass and place a lien against the property which must be paid when the county tax is paid. If not, the property owner faces having the property sold at auction.

Acting on a motion by Councilman Carthel  Crout, Council unanimously agreed to advertise for interested individuals to cut the grass. Companies will be asked to bid on a price per hour basis.

There was discussion about the town’s sign ordinance stemming from two signs currently on display in the Town of Williamston.

Councilman Crout said he is appalled at one sign berating the police department.

Clardy said another one is about him since this is an election year and there is a first amendment issue.

Town Attorney Richard Thompson said there is not much the town can do in this particular case.

He said the town passed first reading on a sign ordinance years ago but second reading was never held.  He said the new zoning ordinance includes ordinances dealing with portable signs and political signs in the town but there is an issue of free speech.

Thompson said the town’s ordinance addresses public disorderly conduct in using profane or obscene language in a public place or materials of a sexual orientation.

The ordinance limits portable signs to 45 to 70 days not more than two times per year and requires a permit.

Thompson said an individual could sue in civil court over a personally objectionable sign but the town ordinance does not prohibit the type speech represented by the signs.

“I don’t  think there is anything council can do about that sign,” he said.

Clardy attempted to pass a resolution stating offense to the sign which he said was offensive to the police department, but his motion failed to receive a second from any other member of council.

“My position has been stated,” Clardy said.

Council approved second reading on  a refund policy on rental fees charged by the town.

Responding to a question by Councilman Otis Scott concerning the status of the town administrator position, Councilman Crout stated the field has been narrowed to five potential candidates.

Crout said letters were to be sent to those who were not selected and to the five finalists to see if they are still interested.

Clardy said he has not been given any direction on the issue and that when he is supplied with the five names, the letters will be written stating they are in consideration.

Council approved second reading authorizing the Milliken Plant to temporarily increase the pH limit on their industrial waste water discharge permit to 12.3 s.u.

The increase is at the request of the town to help with a pH discrepancy at the town’s waste water treatment plant.

According to Goldie and Associates spokesperson Sonya Harrison, the town is having to purchase chemicals in drums to adjust the ph at the town’s treatment plant. Milliken has a bulk tank large enough to provide the necessary treatment at their plant and can purchase the chemicals in bulk, saving the town additional expense until the treatment plant upgrade is complete, Harrison said.

The agreement will be in effect until the WWTP upgrade is complete, expected to be May 31, 2010.

Council accepted two proposals from companies that can provide codification of the town ordinances, but no action was taken.

There was brief discussion about insurance on the town’s historic cannon. Again the town attorney said there should be some type of coverage for property and liability.

Council looked at a roofing proposal to place a pitched roof on the kitchen and cafeteria roof of the Municipal Center.

Clardy said that repair on the police department roof was limited to repairing seals around the dormers.

Councilman Marion Middleton suggested having someone look at the walls to determine if they will support the additional weight of a pitched roof and if the present roof should be removed.

Mayor Clardy mentioned having long term plans to make the old cafeteria, presently used for storage, into a courtroom.

Acting on a request by Pamela Owens, Council will look at provide playground equipment, picnic tables and benches at the Gray Drive walking track.

Council unanimously agreed to  providing an additional $680 for expenses associated with sending Miss Williamston, Hollie Whatley, to the Miss SC pageant in July.

Council also agreed to provide funding in the upcoming budget for new town flags. The town needs 15 to 20 flags for the town’s poles and to have a few extra.

Council unanimously agreed to budget funds to attend the summer meeting of the State Municipal Association in Charleston. There was no mention of the amount to be appropriated.

Picnic in the Park with Miss Williamston

Holly Whatley, Miss Williamston 2008, is planning a meet and greet and a picnic in Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park at 6 p.m., Thursday, June 12.

Whatley invites everyone in the Williamston area to join her for a wonderful evening in the park. 

The community is invited to bring their coolers and packed picnic baskets. Whatley will be passing out pictures, autographing them, and she will be available to take pictures with everyone who comes.

“I am looking forward to meeting everyone and having a great time,” Whatley said. 

As Miss Williamston, she is in tpreparing for the upcoming Miss South Carolina Scholarship pageant competition which will be held July 1, 2, 3, and 5 in Spartanburg.

During the picnic she will present a preview of what’s to come in the competition, singing her competition song, “Something to Talk About.”

She is also raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network, as part of the national platform of the Miss America Organization. 

“If you would like to help me in my endeavors that would be wonderful also,” Whatley said.

“I’m getting ready to compete in the Miss America Miss South Carolina pageant. As a contestant, I need your help to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network and the Miss America Scholarship Fund,” Whatley said.

“This year the Miss America Organization has teamed up with Children’s Miracle Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children’s hospitals. This new partnership gives each contestant the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for two great organizations, the Miss America Organization and Children’s Miracle Network,” she said.

To help Miss Williamston reach her goal of $2,500, you can go to the www.missamerica4kids.org website.

Donations are considered a charitable donation for tax purposes and a receipt will be provided at the end of the year.

The secure on-line donation will be included in Whatley’s fund raising total on her personal page and provide a comparison to other contestants. If you have any questions or would like to contact Whatley, email her at MissWilliamston2008@live.com

Allen fourth to announce for mayor

Danny Allen announced this week that he will run for the seat of mayor in the Town of Williamston. He will join three others in campaigning for the position.

Allen, 51, is a 25 year resident of the town. He worked 25 years with Carolina Rubber Rolls and is currently employed at Southeastern Paper in Greenville where he has worked for two years.

He and his wife Aretta have two sons, Marcus and Lee.

Allen said he would like to see the town come together, work with his council on problems and bring business and recreation opportunities to the town.

“I have nothing against Mayor Clardy,” he said, “We just need a change.”

Allen said a priority for him is  to see the town come together.

 He said as Mayor he will not be the only one making decisions, but that he will listen to the advice and recommendations of all the members of the council and work with them on the problems facing the town.

“They’re in there to make it better,” he said.

New businesses and recreation for young people are also areas he is interested in.

“We need to do what we can to bring business to the town and we need recreation.”

Allen said he would like to see a bowling alley somewhere in the town, which he said would also bring business from surrounding areas such as Belton and Pelzer.

He pointed out that there have been a lot of businesses in the town closing and he wants to look at what can be done to get businesses back in the town.

Businesses don’t want to be here when it is a war zone,” he said. “I want a peaceful town. I want to get back to being one.”

Allen said that by working together and working on it, the town can go beyond where they are. He said he wants to see things for children to do. “They need more than a park.”

He also wants to see more sidewalks and paving of West Main St.

Allen said he had considered running for the mayor’s seat the first time Clardy ran, but after talking with Clardy, he decided not to.

He said that since Clardy has been in office, the town is split and he would like to see it unite as one.

He said he has nothing against Middleton or Clardy, he just wants council to get their heads together and to make decisions as a group and not as individuals.

He said problems will be discussed at council meetings and hopefully be straightened out.

“I will work hard with the city council.”

“My door will be open to the public anytime,” he said. “If there are any problems, I want to know it.”

“I believe the town will like me if they give me a chance,” he said.

Also running for the position are Carthel Crout, Otis Scott, and incumbent Phillip Clardy.

 

West Pelzer approves truck, no action taken on police cars

By Stan Welch

 Half a loaf is better than none. This old saying proved to be true for the West Pelzer Police Department at last Thursday’s special called meeting of the Town Council.

Police Chief Bernard Wilson made his pitch for two new police cars, a pitch which fell on six deaf ears.

Chief Wilson was seeking to obtain two Dodge Chargers through a lease purchase arrangement under which the cars would have cost $27,579 each. That price would include radar, lights, cage, console and the wig wags, or alternating flashing lights on the vehicle. By the end of the lease, at a projected cost of $6427 per year for a five year lease, the total lease cost would be $32,135.

Two Crown Victoria Fords, long a standard in law enforcement, would have cost slightly less per car, at $27,209. But according to research presented by Wilson, the better gas mileage produced by the Chargers would actually save more than $1600, based on a cost per gallon of four dollars, in gasoline costs over the length of the lease.

Councilman Marshall King presented a flyer from Bobby Jones Ford in Augusta, Georgia which showed Crown Victoria Fords for $24,314, a price which would quickly approach the other prices, once lights, radar, cages and the other extras were added. Chief Wilson stated that the cars currently used by the town are becoming liabilities due to their poor condition.

Councilman Mike Moran made a motion to lease the two cars, saying that there was plenty of money available in the general fund of the town. 

“We could buy five cars if we wanted to. If it was me I’d buy them and pay cash, but it seems everyone else prefers a lease.” 

The Council then proceeded to discuss the motion for several minutes, even though it had not received a second.

Councilman Jimmy Jeanes opposed the idea, saying, “We should find out where our money is before we do this. I’m sure there are people in town who are worried that we might get in a jam and have to raise their taxes to pay for these cars.”

Mayor Peggy Paxton said that they should know where the money is. “Look at the budget. Look at the town’s financial records. The money is there.”

Jeanes repeated his belief that the budget should be finished before any purchases are made. 

Moran told him anyone who was paying attention to the current budget knows the money is there. “We have more than $180,000 in the general fund. You can’t live your life in fear. That’s why we budget these things, so we know we can handle them even if things change somewhat.”

Paxton, trying to salvage that half loaf, moved that the Town lease one police car. This time, the motion received a second, making it eligible for a vote. That vote was quickly cast, with a 3-2 decision not to lease or purchase a police car.

The police department fared somewhat better in their quest to purchase software for the two police cars, software that would allow the officers to access the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, immediately.

Chief Wilson recounted a recent incident where the use of such software, in cooperation with Williamston police, had allowed his department to identify and apprehend a fugitive wanted on several local warrants.

Council voted unanimously to purchase the software and activate it.

Water and Sewer Department Head Mike Mahaffey requested a new truck for the water department, and received approval to spend $16,787 on a 2008 extended cab Chevy pickup. The vote was unanimous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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