Week of June 18, 2003
Council at odds over letter sent to agencies
Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy criticized members of Town Council this week for stepping outside of the towns governmental structure by sending a letter to two agencies requesting that they not become involved in a political debate over changing the towns form of government.
Three of Williamstons four councilmembers signed letters asking representatives of the Appalachian Council of Governments and the State Municipal Association not to come to Williamston to provide information on the issue.
Councilmembers Greg Cole, Cecil Cothran and Wade Pepper each signed the letter dated June 5.
The letter states, This is a very highly charged political issue involving the mayor, council, and the citizens of Williasmton. Since your organization represents all forms of South Carolina Governments, we the undersigned councilmen are requesting The Council of Governments not involve their people, opinions, or time in this sensitive issue.
We feel that the citizens of Williamston are sensible enough to choose a form of government without outside interference.
The letter continues, Your organization performs a valuable function for South Carolina Municipalities but in this situation your presence would not help to remedy the situation in Williamston.
Correspondence from Robert M. Strother, Executive Director of the Appalachian Council of Governments, which was sent to the mayor and councilmen, stated that the organization had received no formal or informal request from the mayor or members of the town council to provide such a program.
It also stated that it is the Appalachian Council of Governments policy to require an affirmative vote of any local government body before undertaking any action, program or project on their behalf.
The Council of Governments has in several other jurisdictions, provided educational programs dealing with the various forms of municipal and county government. We do not, however, promote one form over any other.
Rather, we provide an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the local elected officials and administrative staff peculiar to each.
Williamston Town Council approved an ordinance at their last meeting calling for a referendum allowing voters to decide if they want to change the towns form of government.
After unanimously approving first reading, Mayor Clardy stated that he would support the decision if the vote is based on sound information.
During the meeting, Clardy said he would request a representative from both organizations to provide information to Williamston residents so that they could make an informed opinion on the issue.
Clardy said he would take the time required before the referendum is held to educate residents on the various types of municipal government.
The time required should be taken advantage of to educate and inform the public of the advantages and disadvantages of the various forms of government, Clardy said.
Clardy said the effort should include announced public forums for the general public that would include representatives from both organizations, which are available to provide information.
He also stated that measure was necessary because some residents had told him they were confused and had received misinformation on the issue.
On June 12, Clardy said he contacted the office of Howard Duvall, Executive Director of the South Carolina Municipal Association, in an attempt to discuss potential dates.
Duvall called back leaving a message with questions concerning a letter he had received from the councilmen.
In a written response to the Councilmen, Clardy said he was confused about the purpose of the letters and was appalled and embarrassed by the deliberate exclusion of both himself, as Mayor, and Councilman David Harvell, in a decision that appeared to be endorsed by a quorum of Town Council.
Clardy said that the fact that the organization represents all forms of SC governments is the exact reason they and the Appalachian Council of Governments are the most appropriate organizations to provide information to the citizens of Williamston.
Clardy also stated that he believes the letters circumvented the spirit of public information and the FOI act. Clardy said the letter indicated a closed and private decision of a public body.
Saddened histories of recent events in our town are proof enough that secret agreements and closed meetings are so damaging and harmful to the integrity of open government and public accountability. I am personally left with the disappointed impression of what appears to be a hidden agenda against me and my administration, Clardy said in the response letter.
Clardy said he intends to place on the agenda for a public vote by Council a formal invitation to representatives of the Municipal Association and the Appalachian Council of Governments to come and address the citizens of Williamston, in a public forum, explaining the various forms of government in South Carolina.
The public should have the chance to ask the questions, and the public has the right to listen to the answers. As mayor, I also have the right to know all the factors in this decision, and I encourage your interests in the same, Clardy stated in response to the Councilmen.
As a mayor and council, lets be fair to those who placed us in office. If this matter is approved for a referendum, let us trust the voters judgement, as they trust us to provide them the tools that will enable them to make the right one.
Councilman Greg Cole said the three councilmembers did not meet as a group and only sent the letters because they were under the impression, based on statements made by Clardy during the June 2 council meeting, that any information presented would be onesided.
Cole said he was asked by a fellow councilman to sign the letter.
One of the councilmen wanted to see if we agreed with it, Cole said. He brought the letter and I signed it to let ACOG and the municipal association know we wanted an unbiased opinion.
There was no meeting of the three of us, Cole said.
I signed it because I was under the impression that it would be a one sided presentation, he said.
I dont have any problems with them coming as long as it is presented equally and fairly, Cole said.
Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said this week that the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has completed an inventory of an evidence room at the Williamston Police Department and provided the town with a list of items that were found.
SLED was asked by the Town to inventory the contents of the Williamston Police Departments evidence rooms after former police chief Richard Turner was fired from the position on April 8.
Clardy said SLED provided a list of items in the evidence rooms but offered no other report on them.
The mayor said that they were in disarray and disorderly and needed to be professionally organized.
The evidence room was in a state of disarray. It took SLED a couple of weeks at least, Clardy said, to do the inventory.
Clardy said that he was not aware of any cases that would be affected by the findings.
Former Police Chief Turner said that all evidence in the vault was from past cases and would not be in any jeopardy for any reason.
The room, which measures approximately 6x8, was a storage vault for evidence after a case had been tried, according to Turner.
We requested more storage area to set up an evidence room. It was needed, Turner said.
The items were mainly confiscated guns, drugs and property, according to Turner who said that most of the items were tagged.
He also said that it contained items inherited from two police chiefs before him which were moved from the towns old jail when the new jail wing was constructed.
Any untagged items were probably inherited, he said.
Turner said the vault was sealed before he left to insure the integrity until SLED could do the inventory.
All they were doing was to inventory the vault, he said. Thats what I wanted. I welcomed the inventory, because it protects me too.
Turner said there was a list of all confiscated guns, which he said were placed in plastic containers for storage. They were off the street and out of circulation, Turner said.
Turner said some of the items were probably from the 1970s.
We didnt have enough storage space anyway, he said.
Turner said that individual officers have their own evidence lockers which hold evidence until a case goes to court and that items are not place into the evidence storage vault until after it goes to court.
Turner accused Clardy of character assassination this week.
He is looking for something to make me look bad, Turner said.
Turner was given an ultimatum to resign or be fired on April 7 and was ultimately fired.
No specific reasons for the action have been made public by the Mayor, though he has said his decision to fire Turner was based on various reasons.
The Mayor needs to quit trying to be the police chief and start worrying about the $402,000 deficit the town is facing, Turner said.
Williamston Police Chief Troy Martin said this week that the evidence storage room is being reorganized and old evidence will be destroyed.
Former Williamston Police Lt. Danny Hart said this week he is following the Towns policy and procedures guidelines by asking for an informal meeting with his department head, new police chief Troy Martin.
Hart said he met with Chief Martin Tuesday and will proceed with the towns guidelines concerning the request for a grievance hearing, which he said he may ask to be held in public.
Hart said he had requested a meeting with Martin but had not received a notification by mail. He incidentally found out that a meeting was scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m., only after requesting to see his personnel file Tuesday morning at Town Hall and discovered the letter in it.
Hart said he has retained legal counsel concerning several issues including the legality of the towns grievance procedure which allows legal counsel by the town but not by the employee and what he said was discrimination by the town in dealing with similar disciplinary instances among employees.
Hart said there have been instances in which one employee is treated in one way and one in another way for the same offense.
Hart, a 20 year veteran of the Williamston Police Department, described his firing as a drastic act for an employee that had been with the police department for 20 years and has no disciplinary problems noted in his file.
Hart met with Mayor Phillip Clardy and Chief Martin on June 6.
Clardy said Martin offered an objective perspective though he was not directly included in any discussion between himself and Hart about an incident which occurred prior to Hart being suspended.
Hart was officially terminated from employment with the town by the mayor on Monday, June 9.
Clardy said the action to terminate Hart was also based upon a recommendation made by Chief Martin, after he had talked with Hart.
Hart was promoted to sergeant after three years on the force. He served as sergeant for 12 years until he was named lieutenant, serving as second in command for the last six years under former Chief Richard Turner.
Williamston police officers recovered a stolen vehicle after it was left with the motor running in the middle of the road. They also made several unrelated drug arrests recently. Among incidents investigated:
June 16 - Nicholas Waylon McGowan, 21, 239 Belton Dr., Williamston, was arrested for no vehicle license, muffler violation, operating an uninsured vehicle and unsafe tires after a Chrysler was observed on Anderson Dr. without a tag. D. Munger investigated.
June 15 - Eckerd Drugs, 201 E. Main St., Williamston, reported a shoplifting incident in which unknown items were taken from the store setting off security sensors. The thief left the scene on a bicycle. J. T. Motes investigated.
June 14 - Edwin Grier, Jr., 45 9 Austin St., Williamston, was arrested for public disorderly conduct after being observed walking on Greenville Dr. with an open can of beer. D. A. Baker investigated.
June 13 - Jean Francisco Mateo, 35, 130 W. 1st. St., Williamston, was arrested for assault and public disorderly conduct in connection with an incident at 543 W. Main St. D. A. Munger P. D. Marter investigated.
June 13 -Kaci Elizabeth Gosnell, 104 Bentwood Rd., Piedmont, reported a Sheba-Inu dog valued at $200 taken from 239 Belton Dr. The dog was chained in the backyard. D. W. Bryant investigated.
June 13 - Kathy Clark Eddleman, 114 W. Third St., Williamston, reported a checkbook taken from the residence. J. T. Motes investigated.
June 13 - Gwen Agnew, 37, 11 Brown St., Williamston, reported being threatened by a man with a knife D. W. Bryant investiagted.
June 12 - Jarion B. Owens, 203 Minor St., Williamston, reported a wallet containing two credit cards, a checkbook and $20 lost or stolen. D. W. Alexander investigated.
June 5 - Hickory Point Amoco, 103 Gr. Dr., Williamston, reported an employee allowed cigarettes valued at $5 to be taken from inventory without being paid for. D. W. Alexander investigated.
June 10 - Justin Welborn, 18, 7 College St., Williamston, was arrested for petit larceny in connection with $17 taken from a vehicle at a Broad St. parking lot. D. W. Alexander, D. Munger investigated.
June 11 - Timothy Andrew Flanagan, 17, 105 Carly Court, Pelzer, was arrested for speeding, simple possession of marijuana, possession of ice, crank, crack cocaine after a 1990 Mercury was observed speeding on Belton Drive. Officers allegedly found a clear cellophane baggie containing approximately one gram of a white powdery substance believed to be methamphetamine. D. Munger investigated.
June 10 - Julian Albert Burgess, 46, 106 W. 5th St., Williamston, was arrested for driving under suspension, (more than 1st) after a 2000 Ford Taurus was observed on Harper St.
June 9 - A 1996 Plymouth Neon, which had been reported stolen was recovered after the vehicle was observed by officers on Rockwood and Whilden Dr. with a cracked windshield.
The vehicle was left parked in the roadway with the motor running and doors open.
A passenger remaining in the vehicle said that three other occupants fled the vehicle.
The owner of the vehicle told officers he had let a friend borrow the vehicle and that it was reported stolen. D. A. Baker investigated.
June 8 - Main St. Auto Care and Detail, 200 Gr. Dr., Williamston, reported a burglary in which forced entry was gained to the building. Hand tools, power tools, two TVs and a play station was stolen. Total valued of the items was $1,300.
Warrants were issued for James Anthony Smith, 30, 22 Tripp St., Williamston, in connection with the incident. Most of the items were recovered.
Anderson County sheriffs deputies are investigating the armed robbery of a local convenience store last Saturday. A male suspect entered the store owned by Ken Moorhead Oil Company located at 4531 Hwy. 29 North near the Anderson Jockey Lot. He presented a gun and demanded money from store clerk Marjory Sue Wright of Williamston. Wright gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of money before he fled the premises.
Anderson County sheriffs deputies also investigated the following incidents.
June 16 Scott William LeCroy, 34, 105 Lee Dr., Williamston, reported that someone entered his garage and stole an air compressor valued at $400. D. B. Anderson investigated.
June 16 Jessie Reid, 77, 505 Wren School Rd., Piedmont, reported that someone entered a vacant residence and stole a chain saw valued at $300. D. B. Anderson investigated.
June 16 Herman Dorris Thompkins, 68, 109 Dickerson Rd., Williamston, reported that someone stole a battery charger and fishing rods valued at $125 from his garage. D. B. Anderson investigated.
June 15 Powdersville Mart, 101 Cooper Rd., Piedmont, reported that someone broke an exterior door, forced open an office door, and removed a safe and its contents valued at $3500, A. T. Grasty investigated.
June 15 Lawrence Curtis Thrasher, 49, 411 McAlister Rd., Williamston, reported that someone pried open a shop door and stole several power tools valued at $2100. D. B. Anderson investigated.
June 15 - Jeremy Michael Laboone, 22, 105 Laboone Rd., Easley, reported that someone stole a 1998 Yamaha Warrior 4-wheeler valued at $3000 from his back yard. C. Diaz investigated.
June 14 Katie Elgin, 21, 199 Mill St. Ext. Apt. G4, West Pelzer, reported a Nokia cell phone valued at $99 stolen. R. Helmly investigated.
June 14 Dennis Terry Miller, 44, 214 Cherokee Rd., Williamston, reported that someone stole a Sears Craftsman riding lawn mower valued at $1785 from his carport. D. B. Anderson investigated.
June 14 James Jeffrey Taylor, 40, 5 Beatty St., Pelzer, reported a tool box, miscellaneous tools, and an air tank valued at $305 stolen from a utility trailer. C. Diaz investigated.
June 14 Bruce Alden Dotson, 40, 614 H. I. Taylor Rd., Williamston, reported a stereo valued at $189 stolen from a vehicle. C. Diaz investigated.
June 13 Raymond Day, Jr., 33, 2219 Old Pendleton Rd., Easley, reported that someone removed a sliding glass door from his residence and removed firearms valued at $2205. M. D. Campbell investigated.
June 13 Michael Paul Marinucci, 36, 309 Sweet Gum Rd., Williamston, reported that someone took a license plate valued at $12 from his vehicle. D. M. Patten investigated.
June 13 Powdersville Motors, 3127 Earle E. Morris, Jr. Hwy., Piedmont, reported a 1996 Ford F150 XLT 4x4 truck valued at $8975 stolen from the lot. C. Diaz investigated.
June 12 Pandora Janine Sprouse, 42, 2 Wesley Ellison Rd., Williamston, reported a gun, a diamond ring, and cash missing valued at $4440. R. Scogins investigated.
June 12 Teddy Delmer Walls, 47, 405 Ragsdale Rd., Piedmont, reported that a nail gun valued at $492 was stolen from his work van. C. Diaz investigated.
June 12 Michael James Owen, 49, 9308 Hwy. 81 North, Piedmont, reported that someone took various tools valued at $1430 from his garage. D. M. Patten investigated.
The Piedmont Public Service District Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the third and final reading of the budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004 at their monthly meeting on June 16.
The budget shows estimated revenues at $1,087,395 for all departments with total estimated expenditures of $1,064,270 leaving an estimated surplus of $23,125.
Millage rates remain unchanged at .055 for the fire department, .024 for the sewer and light department, and .002 for the recreation department. Chairman Marsha Rogers reported that the administrator receives 35 vacation days and a salary of $48,710.
Rogers reported that the Fire Department had a busy day with a transformer which blew up at Air Products on Old Pelzer Road.
Chief Administrator Butch Nichols reported that there have been no problems with vandalism since surveillance cameras were installed at the park. He also reported that a $5000 grant will be used to redo the banks at the park to prevent erosion. He added that a request had been made to Anderson County for funds for an additional picnic shelter.
Nichols reported that the cost of cleaning the sewer line on Dill Drive with a high pressure machine would be around $5000. The board instructed Nichols to get firm estimates so that a decision could possibly be made at a called meeting since there is no regular meeting in July.
Nichols suggested that the board consider purchasing a jet machine for approximately $50,000 to clean the sewer lines saying that the machine would pay for itself. Nichols said that the cost of having the lines cleaned runs about 50 to 60 cents per foot and estimated more than 15000 of sewer line in the district.
Nichols also projected adding two employees and raising sewer taxes within the next few years to pay for the cost of meeting mandates from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). He added, Were going to have to spend some money if we stay in the sewer business.
Commissioner Al McAbee reported a total of 52 calls in May which included: 7 structural fires, 1 vehicle fire, 7 vehicle accidents, 22 medical runs, 3 electrical fires, and 12 sewer calls.
The board scheduled the next regular meeting for August 18 at 7 p.m. and adjourned.
Council member Cindy Wilson continued her lone opposition to past and future sewer projects at the regular meeting of the Anderson County Council Tuesday.
A vote at the June 3 council meeting supported a resolution to execute an agreement setting in motion $33 million of sewer improvements over the next five years.
The agreement allows for sharing the cost of improvements to treatment plants at Generostee Creek and Rocky River with the city of Anderson and Homeland Park based on the capacity that each entity would receive. The county plans to pay its portion through a .003 sewer levy.
Wilson led the opposition to the resolution at the June 3 meeting by sponsoring a presentation outlining past sewer improvement problems. Wilson showed slides questioning the manner of installation by the county of a sewer line in the Beaverdam area in Wilsons district.
Saying that the title of her presentation should be out of sight, out of mind, Wilson gave an additional presentation at the Tuesday night meeting showing current concerns with the condition of some areas of the sewer line on Evergreen Road and Shackleburg Road in the Beaverdam area.
Wilson continued her criticism of engineering firm Design South which was paid $39,000 to observe construction on this project.
She also challenged Council member Larry Greers report given at the last meeting on test results at the Rocky River plant. Greer presented test report results showing that the water out of the treatment plant is better and cleaner than the water in the river. Greer challenged Wilson to call Shealy Environmental to check the validity of the reports.
This is not about Rocky River or Lake Secession, Ms. Wilson, this is about Beaverdam, Greer challenged. Its time we put this to rest, Greer concluded in his final remarks at the end of the meeting.
Council member Fred Tolly used his time at the end of the meeting to add his criticism of Wilsons actions. According to Tolly, Wilson changed the wording of a document signed by five council members and described the act as unethical, despicable, and an act of desperation.
The document referenced by Tolly was a resolution approved by council at the last meeting authorizing letters to the city of Anderson and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) concerning the renewal of a discharge permit for the Rocky River treatment plant.
The resolution appeared to be a response to a letter written by Wilson to DHEC requesting a public hearing on the expansion of the Rocky River plant. Apparently, confusion developed as to whether Wilson was speaking for her district or for the entire council in the letter.
Wilson responded to Tollys comments by saying that the wording of the silly resolution was incorrect.
The first reading of two ordinances adding substandard roads in Greers council district into the county road system prompted some concerns from Council member Clint Wright about rewriting road standards. Greer proposed the ordinances on the advice of County Attorney Tom Martin so that the county could maintain the roads for humanitarian reasons.
Peggy Brown who lives off Indian Branch Road in Iva made an emotional plea for assistance with the road maintenance so that emergency vehicles could get to her property. Brown who has been diagnosed with arthritis and osteoporosis said that her husband has suffered several heart attacks and is disabled.
Several council members expressed concern for the situation of the family but also questioned setting a precedent which could be abused. The council eventually decided to table the ordinances in order to research and develop alternative proposals to solve the problem.
In other business, the second reading of an ordinance to rezone 35 acres on Stringer Road at Traynum Road from R-A (residential agriculture) to R-40 (single family residential) received unanimous council approval.
Wilson also received unanimous council approval for a resolution soliciting the help and support of the local media in establishing an active public awareness campaign to increase public involvement in the Early Action Plan to achieve cleaner air in Anderson County.
West Pelzer Mayor Bill Alexander along with his family was present at the meeting to receive a resolution sponsored by Wilson and unanimously approved by the council honoring him upon his retirement after 20 years of public service