News Archive

(2707) Week of July 4, 2007


Businesses late on paying license fee
District One finalizes budget; businesses, property to see increase
After a year without - council, mayor pay reinstated in new budget
Postal Carrier helps injured woman
Drivers will be monitored from the water, ground and sky

Sheriff renews expired license
July 4th parade in South Greenville
Budget work session - Notes from June 27
Seems to Me . . . Good Cop, Bad Cop

Businesses late on paying license fee

By Stan Welch

A recent listing of those Williamston businesses which are late in paying their business license fees reveals that while Mayor Phillip Clardy has paid for his license, he did so too late to avoid being included on the list.

Obtained under the Freedom of Information act, the list of delinquent businesses includes fourteen businesses. Some have paid their license fees, but have not paid their solid waste fees. Clardy paid his license fee the day that The Journal filed its Freedom of Information request.

Clardy says that his delay was caused by the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) assessing sales taxes against his restaurant, PC’s on Main, during several months in 2006 when the restaurant was closed.

“We were closed from January to September in 2006. I had a business license ever since 2004 when I opened. But the license fee is based on the year’s prior sales, so I had to appeal those numbers to the state DOR. That took several months, but those months had to be refigured. I just recently received my inventory sales figures, and that’s when I paid for my license. I wanted to be certain that the numbers I reported to the state and the town were the same. I’m aware that I am under constant scrutiny, and I wanted to make sure the numbers matched.”

However, a series of tax liens issued by the SCDOR indicates that Clardy’s problems with his taxes began in 2004, the year he opened his business. Liens were filed against PC’s on Main LLC in August, September, October, November and December of that year, and continued to be filed well into 2005 as well.  January, February and March of 2005 also saw liens filed by SCDOR.

Clardy says he is now in good standing with the SCDOR. He says he didn’t ask for any special courtesy by the town. “We would offer this courtesy to any business that was involved in appealing its figures to the state,” he said.

Several restaurants other than Clardy’s are on the list, including Gus’ Palmetto Grill and the owners of the Domino’s Pizza restaurant, as well as Millennium Enterprises, of Pendleton, which apparently owns a restaurant in town.

Other delinquent businesses range from plumbing businesses to hair salons to exterminators.

After a year without - council, mayor pay reinstated in new budget

After three intensive days of work sessions, Williamston Town Council put their approval on a $4,487,953 budget that will become effective on July 1.

The budget as approved reflects the current millage rate of 106 mills, with the anticipation of adding an additional four mills later.

Second reading on the 2007-2008 budget was unanimously approved after some adjustments Thursday (June 28).

The vote was taken after a motion by Councilman Marion Middleton, Jr to leave the millage rate at 106, reduce the $14 sanitation fee to $10 and  amend the budget at a later date with a 4 mill increase. The increase will be advertised along with another public hearing, Middleton said.

After giving approval to the budget, council voted 4-1 with Mayor Phillip Clardy opposed, to remove a provision that allows the town to borrow up to $500,000 for a tax anticipation or bond note.

The item has been placed in the budget in the past at the recommendation of the town’s attorney, according to Clardy, to suffice for first reading. Should a need arise, the council would only need to have one more vote to meet the legal requirement of having two votes on an ordinance.

Council also changed an incorrect line item reflecting council and mayor salaries of $12,200.

Another change approved taking $32,500 out of the contingency fund to reflect the 4.0 mill increase that will be added at a later date.

Approval on the budget didn’t come without some tense moments.

During the public hearing held at the beginning of the meeting, resident West Cox urged council not to approve second reading. He urged council to cut the sanitation fee even more and questioned whether proper legal notice had been given.

“To see five minutes before being asked to comment,” Cox said.

Jan Dawkins thanked council, clerk and department heads for their work on the budget.

She admonished  Mayor Clardy for not being present for most of the budget discussions held last week.

Dawkins said the mayor presented the 2007 budget from last year, saying it was his responsibility to present a budget.

“But you couldn’t do it could you,” she said.

She praised council for giving of their time and spending hours on the budget while Clardy was attending a political rally in Greenville and a grocery store reopening in Pelzer. Clardy came for a brief time Wednesday, but left to attend a Crimestoppers recognition for two of Williamston’s police officers.

“You don’t want the responsibility that goes with the title of mayor,” Dawkins said. “Any decent human being would have resigned by now.”

After public discussions, council took a recess to determine if the legal notice on the budget public hearing had been published.

It was determined that the notice was published in The Journal on June 13, meeting the 15 day requirement. However there was some question as the the millage rate stated at 106.

“We are technically within the law,” Councilman Middleton stated before making his motion to leave the millage at 106 and hold another public hearing at a later date to change the millage.

Council is expected to increase the millage rate by 4 mills, the maximum allowed by a new state law.

The increase, if approved, will add $32,500 back into the budget.

“One reason we had an increase in millage was council cut the rate from 120 to 106,” Councilman Carthel Crout said. “And I understand why they did that. The state has put  a limitation, a cap on  how much we can raise taxes in a year. We can’t go back if we need that 4 mills from the year before.”

After the meeting Crout said he thought the final budget meeting “went great.”

Crout had expressed concern that the first budget presented by the Mayor was a repeat of the 2007 budget. But during 11 hours of work sessions last week, most with the mayor absent, he said council came up with a budget they could live with

“We spent quite a few hours doing the mayor’s job,” Crout said. “There was a lot of hard work and council did it without the mayor. We got in there and did it in a week.”

Crout also praised the other councilmembers for their work on the budget.

“Credit goes to Marion Middleton, Jr. for his work on the water and sewer budget,” Crout said. “He did a great job.”

Council divided the departments with Middleton working on water and sewer budget, Crout on the sanitation and street department budget, David Harvell on the Fire Department budget and Otis Scott on the police budget.

“We all worked together with the department heads to come together,” Crout said. In addition to adding the four mill increase later, Crout said He there will probably be other adjustments. “We will probably have to tweak it,” he said.

Crout said he would like to cut the sanitation back to $7 and possibly prorate the $30 pickup fee being charged to businesses.

Overall Crout said he was pleased with the outcome of the budget that was approved.

“I think we have some good checks and balances in place. It is a good liveable, workable budget,” he said. “Not just a guess.”

Crout said the new bookkeeper was very helpful in preparing the new budget. “The bookkeeper was essential.”

After more than a year of working without any salary, the new budget set a monthly payment of $200 to the mayor and council. The budget does not allow for a cell phone for the mayor.

 “The cell phone payment can come out of the $200,” he said.

The budget also cuts out weekend hours for a parks person. “We will have to find a way to do that,” Clardy said after the meeting.

Clardy also defended missing the budget meetings due to prior committments that were scheduled. “I felt it important to honor those committments.

Clardy also stated the he had many meetings with the accountants when Council was not present. “A lot of time was put into this budget when they weren’t in attendance.”

He also said he was proud to attend the Crimestoppers program where “two officers were honored for outstanding services.”

(See notes from the June 27 budget work session in a separate story in this issue)

Correction: First reading on the 2007-2008 budget was approved unanimously by Williamston Town Council during their June 11 meeting. The Journal incorrectly reported that the vote had been delayed to allow budget work sessions after Council members had complained that the budget presented by Mayor Phillip Clardy was the 2007 budget without changes.

The vote was actually for first reading on the budget ordinance with the understanding that there would be scheduled work sessions.

District One finalizes budget; businesses, property to see increase

The Anderson School District One Board of Trustees approved  the 2007-2008 school year budget during their regular monthly meeting June 26.

No one showed up to speak during the public hearing held prior to the vote on the $51,636,973 budget.

Upon the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler, the Board approved the budget 5-1 with Board member Wendy tucker opposed. The budget has been discussed in several work sessions including one with the County Board. The County Board must give final approval for it to take effect, Dr. Fowler  said.

The budget includes a $552,500 deficit which the district will make up with a 5.6 mill increase.

Dr. Fowler said it will not meet the State Maintenance of Local effort requirement and the EIA could withhold over $1 million in funding if the District does not show a good faith effort to meet the local effort.

Before the budget vote, Board member Wendy Tucker stated that the District had been fiscally conservative and the state was punishing it for that.

 “We have had great results without overburdening our taxpayers,” she said. “As a board we need to fight this.”

She said she had contacted Sen. Bryant and County Council Representative Ron Wilson about the issue.

“I think it was wrong to allow the state to strong arm us into raising taxes,” she said.

“We will be facing the same dilemma next year.”

She proposed the board look carefully through the budget to see if it could be tightened then made a motion to suspend the vote on the budget “to see if we can get by without a tax increase.”

Failing to get a second, the motion died.

Dr. Fowler said the state will not allow a school board to reduce local money raised and use state funds to make up the difference.

Under Act 388, the state limits the amount the millage rate can increase.

According to Dr. Fowler, the Senate Finance Committee sets the amount, which for District One is $55,000, and it is based on student growth.

He said the district is growing by approximately 300 students each year.

In 2005, the amount came to $1,017,234,  which the state forgave the District for not raising the millage.

The millage rate now applies to 6% property including businesses and lots and does not affect owner occupied homes, Dr. Fowler said. Instead, the new 1 cent sales tax now provides funding for schools.

Fowler said the district is expected to miss the goal by $791,146 in 2008.

School District One is 81% funded by the state, according to the Superintendent. The rest is made up from local funding.

Under the new law, the district can only raise $552,500 of the amount needed and will fall short.

Dr. Fowler stated that District One has the lowest per pupil expenditure of all but one school district in the state.

The budget reflects $452,000 in capital projects which have been completed and bonds paid off, which will drop the millage by 4 mills.

Even with the increase in millage the District will not meet the maintenance of local effort.

Dr. Fowler said he is expecting a 5.6 increase in the millage rate to raise the $552,500.

The value of a mill, which is set by the County Treasurer’s office, was based on $136,000 and could change. The millage rate for the operating budget is 116.1.

The budget includes a 3.31 employee salary increase, 20.8 additional teachers, 6 support personnel, 2 special education assistants, a mental health therapist, 9.7 percent increase in health insurance premiums, workers comp increase and some athletic transportation.

It also includes new expenditures including increases for maintenance, supplies and communications, insurance, utilities, homebound funding, new classroom projects and furniture for new students and teachers.

It also includes credit recovery software, library books, funds for after school programs, Career and Technology Center funding, coaching supplements, substitute teachers and school resource office increase and security equipment for schools and buses.

In other action the board approved first reading on four policies related to staff conduct and use of technology including cell phones and email.

The policies are GBED - staff conduct; GCQF - Discipline, Suspension and Dismissal of professional staff; IJNDB(R) and use of technology resources in instruction.

The policies deal with use of cell phones and other technology and how an infraction is dealt with, Dr. Fowler said.

Dr. John Pruitt reported that the District has had a successful summer school with 140 students recovering 156 units of credit in the month of June. Thirteen students received credit for new work, with very high grades, he said.

Dr. Pruitt said that 15 students completed work necessary to receive their diplomas.

Postal Carrier helps injured woman

Mabel Bell, a letter carrier with the Williamston post office, is a hero, at least in the eyes of one Colie Browning.

When mail began piling up unopened at the home on Lander St., Bell became concerned.

She went to a neighbor to see if the neighbor new anything about Browning being out of town. Not knowing,  she went to the front and back, looking in the window to see if she could see anything.

“The TV was on,” she said, “So I kept looking around.” 

Bell said she eventually spotted Browning lying on the floor near the refrigerator. “I knew she was alive because she was moving.” She went back to the neighbor and called an ambulance, and when they arrived they were able to get in.

Browning had apparently fallen backward on Monday, and having severe athritis, could not get up. Bell realized something could be wrong on Wednesday.

“She was doing good,” Bell said Thursday. “She was dehydrated but had no broken bones.”

“I am just glad I thought in time to look,” Bell said. “I’m glad I could help.”

Drivers will be monitored from the water, ground and sky

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will team up to fight drunken and aggressive driving this July 4 holiday on the water, on the roadways and from the sky.

The enforcement partnerships with SCDNR will supplement a host of statewide Highway Patrol enforcement efforts tailored to specific problems that vary from area to area.

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to proactive enforcement on holidays,” said Highway Patrol Col. Russell Roark. “We are looking at every area of the state and examining what the problem roadways and causations are and what is needed to prevent highway and lake deaths in that area.”

The July 4 travel period is typically a deadly one. The official “travel” period this year is 30 hours beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, and ending at midnight on Wednesday, July 4.

For law enforcement, this means motorists and boaters will be on the waterways and roadways for an extended period. The Highway Patrol and DNR will place their increased enforcement focus over an extended time period: June 29-July 8.

During a similar 10-day period in 2006 (the Friday before July 4 to the Sunday after), there were 32 fatalities; 24 in 2005; and 23 in 2004. In recent years, the highest number of fatalities was in 2002 when there were 41 during that period. Last year, 17 people were killed over a 102-hour travel period when the holiday fell on a Tuesday; 13 people were killed in 2005 over a 78-hour period when it fell on a Monday.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when the majority of people will be celebrating,” said Col. Alvin Taylor, deputy director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement Division. “So, we’re putting forth a sustained effort that will cover the holiday weekend to weekend.”

In 2006, DNR had 130 recreational boating accidents for the year and 14 boating fatalities. Most of the accidents involved collisions with another vessel, which was the result of failure to keep proper lookout. Four of the accidents were alcohol related, which resulted in three injuries and one death.

The enforcement began today with the beginning of an aerial enforcement campaign and increased enforcement on the ground conducted jointly between DNR, Highway Patrol, State Transport Police (for commercial motor vehicles), and local law enforcement. This increased enforcement will focus on I-20 and U.S. 378 in Aiken, Lexington and Saluda counties.

The aerial enforcement will focus on the weekends before and after July 4. DNR’s airplane and pilot, along with a trooper in the plane, are used in the aerial enforcement working in conjunction with teams of troopers and other law enforcement on the highway below.

“Aerial enforcement gives a broader picture of the traffic situation, making it easier to observe traffic patterns over an extended stretch of roadway and spot vehicles engaging in reckless or aggressive driving behaviors,” Roark said.

In addition to the aerial campaign, the two agencies will team up at popular lake hotspots around the state to work enforcement zones surrounding the lakes and patrolling the lakes as well.

Special enforcement will include public safety checkpoints, LIDAR, speed trailers, saturation patrols, marked and unmarked vehicles and motorcycle units. Motorists need to be prepared with their driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance if they are stopped at a checkpoint. Saturation patrols and special DUI teams will be used especially on high-collision roadways. Troopers will be outside their vehicles on overpasses or roadways using LIDAR, which is a hand-held stationery radar device to monitor speed.

Violations contributing to holiday crashes include speeding, changing lanes unlawfully, following too closely, reckless driving, driving under the influence, and commercial motor vehicle violations.

Seems to Me . . . Good cop, bad cop

By Stan Welch

It is a fact of life that the services and sacrifices of what have come to be known as first responders have always been undervalued. Policemen and firefighters, who routinely risk their lives in service to the public, have fared much better in terms of the public’s appreciation of them since September 11, 2001. The recent tragic death of nine Charleston firefighters has once again driven home the extraordinary sacrifices that can be demanded of these people at a moment’s notice.

Thousands of firefighters drove from all over the country and Canada to take their place in the cavalcade of grief and pride and brotherhood that wound its way through the streets of Charleston to the final resting places of those lost. Millions watched on television as the service was held in the largest public building in Charleston County, a building whose twenty two thousand seats didn’t come close to holding the multitudes that showed up.

Despite all that, most of our first responders don’t get the credit they deserve for the jobs they do. But there is another side to that coin, one which comes up less often than heads or tails do, but which still comes up far too often. That side of the coin involves the growing number of law enforcement personnel who themselves become involved in criminal activity.

I know there have always been crooked cops and firefighters who start fires just so they can put them out. Heck, stories like that are a staple of prime time/crime time television.  But lately, the illegal activities of those bad cops have taken a nasty and disturbing turn.

I was recently checking out a website called badcops.com, at the suggestion of a friend. As I read the news stories that are cited on the website, I began to take some notes. In just a few minutes, I had found more than a dozen cases in the last year and a half involving law enforcement personnel, all from the Upstate; some still active at the time of their arrests and some retired; some city police, some county and some state, who had been arrested and in the majority of cases, already convicted of crimes ranging from criminal domestic violence to sexual assault on children.

 The Anderson City Police had one officer, who also worked for the Iva police department at one time, arrested and convicted for failing to turn in the drugs he had confiscated during arrests. Another officer was fired and charged with sending nude photos of himself and soliciting sex online, while sitting in his cruiser, using his official laptop, thereby giving that device’s name a whole new meaning. This guy’s psychiatric makeup isn’t what bothers me most. What bothers me most is that a guy this stupid somehow was certified to carry a gun and enforce the law.

That’s really the point of all this. How do guys with serious psychological and behavioral problems manage to join a police department, attend the police academy and receive certification as a law enforcement officer without any of those defects in their character or mental health being discovered? Do police departments screen these people? Is psychological testing a part of the employment process?

The Anderson city cop with the laptop certainly wasn’t the only one with a twist in his makeup. A former deputy for Anderson and Oconee counties was charged with sexual assault on two underage girls. A Greenville County detention officer was charged with sexual misconduct with a prisoner. A retired Spartanburg deputy was tried for sexual assault on a minor.

Last year, a state trooper, supposedly the cream of the crop in South Carolina, was charged with rape, which he pled down to misconduct in office. (Now, that’s a good lawyer. How did Bill Clinton miss hiring him?) He received house arrest and later retired from the department on disability, presumably not ED. Also in 2006, a former Greenville County deputy showed up in Anderson to keep a rendezvous he though he had made with a minor female. That female turned out to be an Anderson police officer, and the deputy was arrested on several charges under the state’s online sex offenders statutes. Still another former Greenville County deputy was charged with child molestation.

I mean, jeez, what the devil’s going on here? How did all these freaks get hired and put in a position of authority, including authority over children?

The question of screening arises in other areas, as well. Two officers, with almost no time on the force, were fired and charged with various offenses. One, a Greenville city police officer, still in training, was in Virginia when he pointed a gun at a nineteen year old motorist who was going to slow for the officer’s taste. He then pulled her over and allegedly told her he was a cop and he could shoot her right there. He was convicted on two charges of brandishing a firearm. A Greenville County deputy was fired during his first week on the job when he was stopped and charged with DUI.

Excuse me, but am I the only one who thinks Greenville County has a problem here? I bet McDonald’s does a more thorough job of screening and evaluating new hires.

We hear a lot about the high rate of turnover at the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. Some says it’s a morale problem; the Sheriff says deputies are leaving for better pay. Would better pay produce a better law enforcement officer? I don’t know.

It seems to me the same amount spent on more thorough screening and testing would be more likely to produce that result, no matter what department you’re talking about.

Sheriff renews expired license

By Stan Welch

Just months after former Chief Deputy  Tim Busha of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office was found to have had his driver’s license suspended several times, The Journal has confirmed that Anderson County Sheriff David Crenshaw allowed his driver’s license to expire, and to remain expired so long that he had to take the driving portion of the test again when he appeared at the Seneca office of the DMV.

The original information came in the form of a telephone conversation with a woman who claimed that she was at the Seneca DMV office when Crenshaw came in. The woman, a former resident of Anderson County, said that she recognized him immediately. “I don’t really know the Sheriff,” said the woman, who asked that her identity be kept secret, “but I do know him on sight. I was there when he came in and when he left. He took the test and it looked like to me that he flunked it. I didn’t see him get a license, let me put it like that.”

A telephone call to Sheriff Crenshaw confirmed the facts as they were reported to The Journal. “I sure did have to get my license renewed,” said the Sheriff. “Apparently, renewals notices don’t get sent out like they used to. I just happened to notice that mine was expired. We check licenses every day through the department, but that doesn’t show  expirations, just suspensions.”

To make matters worse, Crenshaw said, “I screwed it up the first time. They don’t do a three way turnaround the way I do. I use a three point runaround to block the road as a police officer. The state examiner didn’t think blocking the road should be the end result. When you’re taking a driving test, the examiner is the boss. I got it straight the next time.”

Crenshaw explained that he went to the Seneca DMV office after experiencing computer problems at the Anderson DMV office. “I went over there and they had their computers down. The lobby was packed, so the next day, I just went over to Seneca. I wasn’t exactly hiding. For one thing, it’s pretty hard for a fellow like me to hide. But I was wearing my gun and badge, so I wasn’t exactly undercover.”

The supervisor of the Seneca DMV office, contacted before The Journal reached the Sheriff for confirmation, declined to provide any information, saying “I cannot confirm anything from this office. There are privacy laws to protect our clients, and we do not discuss anyone’s business.”

Section 56-1-215 of the South Carolina Code of Laws states that a driver’s license, with no more than five points in moving violations charged against it in the two prior years, can simply be renewed by applying and paying the fee. It can even be done online.

Those options, however, do not apply to those whose license has been expired for nine months or more. The requirement that Crenshaw take a driving test shows that the length of time his license was expired before renewal exceeded that legal limit.

“Yeah, whatever the legal limit was, I was past it. That’s why they made me take the test. You must have talked to somebody who was there, if you know that.”

Crenshaw added that he just made a simple mistake. “I’m human too. I just never thought about it, and when I did, I took care of it.”

After being contacted by The Journal, Crenshaw called a news conference with area media.

Last fall, after reports were published that Crenshaw’s chief deputy at that time, Tim Busha, had been driving for several months on a suspended driver’s license, Busha resigned, citing media scrutiny as one reason. He is currently working as a bail bondsman and private investigator.

July 4th parade in South Greenville

The Second annual South Greenville 4th of July Celebration Parade will be held at 11am on the 4th of July on Old Hundred Road at The Ware Place.

A contingent of “Patriot Guards” from the US Marine Corps Reserve Detachment in Greenville will lead the parade. 

The Patriot Guard Riders are a diverse group from across the nation on motorcycles. “We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us,” a spokesperson said. “We don’t care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a hawk or a dove.”

Their mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. They show sincere respect for fallen heroes, their families, and their communities and shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

“We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means,” the spokesperson said.

The Ware Place is on US Hwy. 25 South of Greenville (Augusta Road). Old Hundred Road is approx 1mile east of the Ware Place off Highway 418.

For more information contact: Gordon Vinson, by email at shwraide@mindspring.com or phone 243-3550 or South Greenville Fire Department Chief Ken Taylor at 505-6787.

Budget work session - Notes from June 27

By Stan Welch

During a budget work session held last Wednesday, (June 27), Williamston Town Council discussed the following changes to the proposed 2007-2008 General Fund Budget.

Under the terms of the proposed 2007-2008 budget, which was significantly amended during a series of budget work sessions lst week, Williamston residents would see the sanitation fee of fourteen dollars a month cut to ten dollars. That would result in a reduction in revenues generated by that fee from $313,000 to approximately $240,000. Despite the decision to reduce the fee, Council also budgeted $100,000 for the purchase of a garbage truck. That proposed expenditure, coupled with the addition of a full time position and two part time positions to a department which was deeply cut during last year’s financial troubles, left the streets and sanitation department facing a deficit of some $210,000.

In another change to the proposed budget, the anticipated hospitality tax revenues of $80,000 were placed in the parks department budget. By state law, hospitality taxes can only be used for tourism related activities, such as softball tournaments and festivals.

Much of the council’s work in the last week has been dedicated to establishing and revising line items within the various departments’ budgets. Renita Owens and Peggy Reid, of Renita M. Owens CPA, assisted in the process, offering advice on the best way to structure various accounts and manage various issues.

The general fund budget was $636,221, or almost $800,000 less than the previous year. In part that was because of various loans and debts paid off during the last year, such as a $250,000 general obligation bond. Such reductions, plus a projected revenue source of $39,000 from a proposed tax increase, left a surplus of $449,621. Councilman Crout pointed out that those funds will be used to create a contingency fund and to address pay raises for some employees.

While Council could not vote on issues during the work sessions, it was plain that they intend to include a tax increase in the budget. 

That increase is limited by state law to 4.50 mils for Williamston, based on a formula involving the consumer price index and the rate of growth in Williamston. The formula amounted to 4.25% of the 106 mills currently budgeted.

“We need to go up so that each year our base increases, making that percentage of increase count for more. We are making progress in terms of diversifying our revenue base. The mills used to create twenty per cent of our annual revenue. Now, the auditor says that they create fourteen per cent. But we need to build a contingency so if that source of revenue is ever decreased or lost, we can survive while we adjust,” said Councilman Middleton.

Council, with Mayor Clardy absent at the time, also decided to leave the funding for a proposed forensic audit in the budget. Despite that choice, Middleton conceded that the audit will probably have little impact if conducted.

“It appears that the major problem with the expenditures was in the creation of jobs without the council’s consent. But apparently, if Council did not tell the mayor not to create those positions, there is no illegal activity,” said Middleton, Jr. “I don’t agree with that so I’d like to keep the option open to do the audit.”

Clardy attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Bi-Lo in Pelzer, then attended the work session for an hour or so before leaving to attend a Crimestoppers luncheon to honor two Williamston policemen.

Seems to Me . . . Good cop, bad cop

By Stan Welch

It is a fact of life that the services and sacrifices of what have come to be known as first responders have always been undervalued. Policemen and firefighters, who routinely risk their lives in service to the public, have fared much better in terms of the public’s appreciation of them since September 11, 2001. The recent tragic death of nine Charleston firefighters has once again driven home the extraordinary sacrifices that can be demanded of these people at a moment’s notice.

Thousands of firefighters drove from all over the country and Canada to take their place in the cavalcade of grief and pride and brotherhood that wound its way through the streets of Charleston to the final resting places of those lost. Millions watched on television as the service was held in the largest public building in Charleston County, a building whose twenty two thousand seats didn’t come close to holding the multitudes that showed up.

Despite all that, most of our first responders don’t get the credit they deserve for the jobs they do. But there is another side to that coin, one which comes up less often than heads or tails do, but which still comes up far too often. That side of the coin involves the growing number of law enforcement personnel who themselves become involved in criminal activity.

I know there have always been crooked cops and firefighters who start fires just so they can put them out. Heck, stories like that are a staple of prime time/crime time television.  But lately, the illegal activities of those bad cops have taken a nasty and disturbing turn.

I was recently checking out a website called badcops.com, at the suggestion of a friend. As I read the news stories that are cited on the website, I began to take some notes. In just a few minutes, I had found more than a dozen cases in the last year and a half involving law enforcement personnel, all from the Upstate; some still active at the time of their arrests and some retired; some city police, some county and some state, who had been arrested and in the majority of cases, already convicted of crimes ranging from criminal domestic violence to sexual assault on children.

 The Anderson City Police had one officer, who also worked for the Iva police department at one time, arrested and convicted for failing to turn in the drugs he had confiscated during arrests. Another officer was fired and charged with sending nude photos of himself and soliciting sex online, while sitting in his cruiser, using his official laptop, thereby giving that device’s name a whole new meaning. This guy’s psychiatric makeup isn’t what bothers me most. What bothers me most is that a guy this stupid somehow was certified to carry a gun and enforce the law.

That’s really the point of all this. How do guys with serious psychological and behavioral problems manage to join a police department, attend the police academy and receive certification as a law enforcement officer without any of those defects in their character or mental health being discovered? Do police departments screen these people? Is psychological testing a part of the employment process?

The Anderson city cop with the laptop certainly wasn’t the only one with a twist in his makeup. A former deputy for Anderson and Oconee counties was charged with sexual assault on two underage girls. A Greenville County detention officer was charged with sexual misconduct with a prisoner. A retired Spartanburg deputy was tried for sexual assault on a minor.

Last year, a state trooper, supposedly the cream of the crop in South Carolina, was charged with rape, which he pled down to misconduct in office. (Now, that’s a good lawyer. How did Bill Clinton miss hiring him?) He received house arrest and later retired from the department on disability, presumably not ED. Also in 2006, a former Greenville County deputy showed up in Anderson to keep a rendezvous he though he had made with a minor female. That female turned out to be an Anderson police officer, and the deputy was arrested on several charges under the state’s online sex offenders statutes. Still another former Greenville County deputy was charged with child molestation.

I mean, jeez, what the devil’s going on here? How did all these freaks get hired and put in a position of authority, including authority over children?

The question of screening arises in other areas, as well. Two officers, with almost no time on the force, were fired and charged with various offenses. One, a Greenville city police officer, still in training, was in Virginia when he pointed a gun at a nineteen year old motorist who was going to slow for the officer’s taste. He then pulled her over and allegedly told her he was a cop and he could shoot her right there. He was convicted on two charges of brandishing a firearm. A Greenville County deputy was fired during his first week on the job when he was stopped and charged with DUI.

Excuse me, but am I the only one who thinks Greenville County has a problem here? I bet McDonald’s does a more thorough job of screening and evaluating new hires.

We hear a lot about the high rate of turnover at the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. Some says it’s a morale problem; the Sheriff says deputies are leaving for better pay. Would better pay produce a better law enforcement officer? I don’t know.

It seems to me the same amount spent on more thorough screening and testing would be more likely to produce that result, no matter what department you’re talking about.

 

 

 

 

 

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