News Archive

Week of July 9, 2003

Williamston voters to decide on change of government August 19
Council members hear comments from citizens
Release of evidence causes friction between town, sheriff
Officers resign from police dept.
Piedmont Lions honor “Citizen of the Year”
Salkehatchie project helps local residents

Williamston voters to decide on change of government August 19

Williamston Town Council set August 19 as the date for a referendum to allow the town’s registered voters to decide if they want to change the Town’s form of government.

Upon the recommendation of town attorney Richard Thompson, Council unanimously approved second reading on an election ordinance authorizing the referendum

At the June 2 meeting, Thompson  advised Town officials to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before setting a date for the referendum.

In correspondence sent to town officials, Thompson stated in talking with a justice department official on June 16, he was told the department wanted a copy of the final ordinance when it is passed on second reading and the date for the election set.

He also said that the Justice Department may take longer than the date of the election to pre-clear the matter and that municipalities are told to go ahead with an election with the understanding that pre-clearance may be a formality to be received after the election.

Thompson stated he was told that under state and federal law, the election is not final and binding until Justice Department approval is obtained.

The election must be held within 30 to 90 days of when the petition requesting the referendum was presented to Council.

The Williamston election board officially presented the certified petition to Council at the June 2 meeting.

 Of the 468 signatures obtained on the petition,  the Anderson County Election Board verified 320 signatures of registered voters indicating they want the question of changing the form of government in Williamston to be decided by a referendum vote.

Electio n board officials said 15 percent of the town’s registered voters, or 302 valid signatures were necessary for the petition to be certified and the request  for an election to be valid.

When the petition was presented,  Mayor Clardy indicated that he would oppose the suggested change in government and would fight it by educating voters on the advantages and disadvantages of the three types of government municipalities in the State can operate under.

After approving the election date, Clardy asked Council to approve an official request by the town to invite a representative of the Appalachian Council of Governments and the State Municipal Association to Williamston to make a public presentation on the forms of government.

Clardy said the presentation would allow entities to come and explain the various forms of government in South Carolina and “were not to be biased or partial.”

Council member Cecil Cothran seconded Clardy’s motion as long as  “all three forms of government would be discussed.”

Unanimously approved, the public presentation will be set for August 12 at 7 p.m. at the Williamston Municipal Center.

All four of the town’s Council members have indicated that they would support the change if the residents want it changed, but would rely on the referendum to make the decision.

Mayor Clardy said he opposes the change because he believes the mayor council form of government the town currently operates under works best.

He said the attempt to change it is in response to his decision to fire former  police chief Richard Turner.

Council members hear comments from citizens

Williamston Town Council approved relocating a communications tower which will help improve communications for the town’s fire, police and utilities departments during their regular monthly meeting Monday. Council also heard from several residents during public comments portion of the meeting.

Connie Strom of Dickens Avenue directed a question to Council members Wade Pepper , Greg Cole and Cecil Cothran, asking why they had sent a  letter to  the Appalachian Council of Governments and the Municipal Association without including Councilman David Harvell and Mayor Phillip Clardy in the correspondance.

Mayor Clardy responded stating that questions could be submitted formally in writing but that council is not obligated to respond to questions raised by citizens during the meeting.

Strom also said that the council members were elected to act as a united government and questioned the legality of the act.

Anne McClellion said that the town is severely disorganized and residents were seeing more conflict than ever before. “Something needs to be done about it,” she said.

Robert Vaughn expressed several concerns including the budget deficit, credit cards and speeding on South Hamilton St.

Velma Pressley of Belton Dr., said she was displeased and disappointed in the newly elected councilmen. She said that town’s decisions “ought to be done in a decent and orderly fashion.”

James Pressley of Belton Dr. said he hoped and prayed for concerted efforts for a united mayor and council government.

Council also heard a request by Richard Jones of the Face Up group  which consists of five local Presbyterian churches

Jones asked to reserve a shelter and the amphitheatre in Mineral Spring Park for an event to be held on Sept. 27 which would include a 25 piece band. Council unanimously approved the request.

Council also approved second reading on an election date for a referendum to change the form of government the town operates under.

Acting on a motion by Councilman Cothran, seconded by Councilman Pepper, Council unanimously approved August 19 for the election date.

Mayor Clardy also asked Council to approve a request by the town to have officials from the Appalachian Counil of Governments and the State Municipal Association  make a public presentation on the forms of government allowed in South Carolina.

Council unanimously agreed to invite an official from each organization to come to Williamston on August 12 at 7 p.m. to make the presentation at the Municipal Center.

Council also approved second reading on a drought ordinance.

Attorney Richard Thompson said the ordinance states responses to state mandated drought classifications.

“It says you have certain plans in effect and certain things you have to do, which are already approved so you don’t take a lot of time to do it when the need arises,” Thompson said.

Council also unanimously approved placing a communications tower on a water tank located on Virginia Dr.

Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison said the new loation will improve communications for the town’s fire, police and utilities at practically no cost to the town.

Ellison said the town’s current tower is located in the lowest part of the town and creates problems with communications and pagers.

Equipment presently in use will be relocated to the new location, Ellison said.

Expected costs include $2,300 for labor and moving equipment, $800 for a utility building and $2,100 for a backup generator.

Expenses will be covered by  money appropriated through Anderson County and the 911 phone bill charge, Ellison said.

Councilman Cothran made the motion to allow the tower to be placed on the tank since there is no cost to the town. Councilman Cole seconded the motion which was unanimously approved.

 Council then went into an executive session to discuss a personnel matter, returning to session at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Councilman Cole asked several questions about the June financial statement.

Councilman Cothran requested a $100 limit be set on the town’s credit card.

Mayor Clardy responded that the limit would not even allow a hotel room for one councilman to be reserved.

“As far as I’m concerned, you can cancel it. It is only used for town expenses,” the Mayor said.

After  seconding the motion, Cole said that there needs to be some way of approving expenditures and some type of overview for operational expenses.

After additional discussion, council agreed to table the motion until it could be looked at closer.

Councilman Cothran said he was only doing what citizens had asked him to do.

Clardy responded, “Until it is taken to a public vote, it may be what some of the people want.”

The meeting was then adjourned.

Release of evidence causes friction between town, sheriff

Williamston Police Chief Troy Martin and Mayor Phillip Clardy both expressed concerns about the handling of evidence by the Anderson County Sheriffs office which was released to the media last week without permission of town officials.

“I have no clue why he got involved,” Martin said about Sheriff Gene Taylor’s comments in a local daily newpaper and premature release of an evidence tape

The incident involved a surveillance tape of an alleged altercation between former police chief Richard Turner and Williamston police Sgt. Zack Gregory recently in the police department parking lot.

According to Chief Martin, the tape was taken to the sheriff’s department for enhancement after the sheriff indicated that they had equipment to do it with.

Martin said he thought he was building a working relationship with the sheriff and that he couldn’t understand why Taylor released evidence from another agency prior to the court date.

“I went to him for help when this incident occurred and asked two questions. Can you serve the warrant and can you enhance the evidence tape,” Martin said.

Martin said Taylor agreed to serve the warrant and to help with the enhancement of the video.

Martin also said that he was told  on Monday, June 30, that the enhanced version of the tape was not ready and that the Anderson Independent was requesting the tape under the Freedom of Information Act.

Martin said he asked members of the sheriff’s office not to get involved and to refer the media to him because it was his case and his evidence.

Martin said Taylor and members of his staff also made several friendly suggestions during the week not to continue with the charge.

The tape was then released to the media prior to being returned to the Town, Martin said.

“This is an assault and battery case involving a regular citizen from Pelzer named Richard Turner. An individual should be treated fairly and justly according to law,” Martin said. “An individual who is subject to the same rights and privileges under the law as any other assault and battery suspect. No more, no less.”

In a statement released to the press last Tuesday (July 1)  Martin stated, “It seems Sheriff Taylor has a lot of friends these days to include Richard L. Turner and his basket of buddies. It seems justice is blinder in some areas than others. It depends on who you know and who you owe. As for me, I owe no one but the citizens who expect fair and equal treatment from me and my department. This case will go forward regardless of the enormous political effort to get it thrown out.”

Martin also said that if Sheriff Taylor wanted to bring SLED into the situation,  he welcomed the move.

“Education is the beginning of knowledge, and I would like to see a little knowledge where and when it is needed. Gene Taylor’s actions involving a simple assault charge brought on by my agency has led to even more questions by us than concerns for our case,” Martin said.

Martin questioned why the sheriff would get so seriously and politically involved in a case involving Turner regardless of his past status.

Mayor Clardy said he was personally disappointed with the apparent liberties taken by the Sheriff’s Office. Clardy said the surveillance tape was entrusted to the Sheriff’s Office as evidence and was released to the press for viewing against the town’s request to protect it and without the opportunity for Williamston officials to view or possess the finished enhancement.

“I find this disturbing,” Clardy said in a statement released July 1.

“This case, regardless of how high profile it may be in some’s opinion, should be tried fairly in the courts, not in the press. These circumstances have made this case complicated, when it should not be,” Clardy stated.

“This tape is only one element in this case, but should be protected as all evidence should be in any case,” Clardy stated.

Martin said that he had already contacted the State Attorney General’s office about Turner’s case and was waiting to hear from SLED, though he said he didn’t think SLED would become involved.

Martin said the video did not show a clear picture of the incident because of the camera angles.

Regardless, he said, the case will go to court for a jury trial.

“We may lose or win it,” Martin said, but we will try it.  The more pressure we get, the more we will pursue it. We are not subject to political pressure,” Martin said.

Turner has maintained that he assaulted no one and is innocent of the charge.

Officers resign from police dept.

Williamston Police Lieutenant Brent Brooks, an eighteen-year veteran with the Williamston Police Department turned in his resignation Monday, Chief Troy Martin said.

Brooks, who was promoted to Lieutenant June 9, cited professional and personal burn out as reasons for his decision.

Martin said Brooks told him, “he needed a break for awhile.”

“I wished him well and stated he would receive a positive recommendation from the police department and the Town of Williamston when he decided to resume his career,” Chief Martin said.

Martin also confirmed that officer Stephen Dooley has turned in his resignation with the department. Martin said Dooley has accepted a position with Anderson City Police Department.

In response to the resignations, Sgt. David Baker has been promoted to Lieutenant and officers Jeff Motes and David Munger have been promoted to Sergeant.

Piedmont Lions honor “Citizen of the Year”

The Piedmont Lions Club honored Jeannette Tate at their May meeting for outstanding community service with their “Citizen of the Year” award.

Born in Shelby, N. C., Tate moved to Piedmont in 1951 when her husband John began playing with the Piedmont Rangers baseball team. She joined the Piedmont Methodist Church and taught Sunday School in the Children’s Department for many years. She also volunteered many years at Sue Cleveland Elementary and was a member of the Mothers Club.

Piedmont residents of all ages know Tate from her many years working as a waitress for Pete’s. After her retirement, she became a caregiver for many residents – driving them to the doctor or to the grocery store or providing them with home-cooked meals.

Tate has two children, Debbie and John, Jr., and four grandchildren. She is looking forward to becoming a great-grandmother since two of her grandchildren are expecting babies this summer.

Salkehatchie project helps local residents

More than 50 youth and adults of all ages from across the state have converged on the area this week with one mission in mind – serving others in need.

They are volunteers in the Salkehatchie Summer Services of the South Carolina United Methodist Church.

The idea for the first Salkehatchie camp began 26 years ago in the mind of Rev. John Culp who saw a need to help others. The ministry has now grown to 36 summer camps which cover the entire state.

Culp chose the name Salkehatchie, an Indian word which literally means salt catcher, because the Salkehatchie River runs through the middle of Hampton County dividing the rich and the poor.

The local group sponsored by Shiloh United Methodist Church in Piedmont meets every morning for devotion before leaving to work on four home sites in the area doing much-needed repairs.

The homes located in Williamston, Piedmont, and Slabtown were selected earlier this year by referrals from local churches and community groups.

Local coordinator Jo Hood says it took a great deal of pre-planning to have everything ready for the group to begin work this week.

Many supplies, meals, and accommodations are donated by local churches and groups in the area.

Each volunteer pays a $180 registration fee which also helps to pay for construction materials and camp costs.

Ken Loyer, a student at Duke Divinity School and first-time volunteer, says he is impressed at the scope of the Salkehatchie project where so many give of their time, talent and materials.

He says he has been surprised how he has been able to contribute although he describes himself as having very little construction ability. Loyer says that the spirit that leads volunteers to do this work is contagious.

A veteran of nine Salkehatchie camps, Amy Hood says that she is “addicted” to the work “I love the construction and meeting the people,” she comments.

She says that the volunteers get very close to each other and to the people they help each summer. “It is hard to say good-bye at the end of the week,” she adds.

 

 

 

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