News Archive

(3408) Week of August 20, 2008

Water, sewer line upgrades first step toward repaving W. Main
Streetscape project nearing completion
Filing ends Thursday
Marijuana bust nets four pounds
Local author’s book featured in Emmys gift bag
Whisenhunt named Teacher of the Year
Opening day goes smooth for schools
Railroad right of way becomes issue in proposed road closing
Homeowner says builder, inspectors did poor job
$10 million GO bond approved by County
Seems to Me . . .The latest lawsuit

Water, sewer line upgrades first step toward repaving W. Main

The Town of Williamston is apparently moving forward  preparations to upgrade and repave an uneven portion of West Main St. which results in a bumpy ride for anyone traveling on it.

Though the town is not responsible for paving on Hwy. 20, a responsibility which falls to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, it is responsible for the underlying cause. That is settling around underground water and sewer lines, some of which are 50 years old.

Town officials are looking at replacing the lines along Main St. prior to paving by SCDOT which is tentatively slated for 2010-2011.

Sonya Harrison of Goldie and Associates told council that the engineering firm is working on a map survey along Main St. to evaluate options for replacement of water, sewer and storm water lines.

Harrison said once completed, the upgrade project could be submitted to RDA for possible funding.

Options will include looking at placing the lines on one side of the street. She said to meet SCDOT requirements, the lines will require two feet of concrete, 10 inches deep on top of them before SCDOT will pave over it.

The buckling pavements problem began when SCDOT restripped West Main St. to allow a center turning lane, forcing vehicles off the concrete base for the road onto the shoulder where the town’s water and sewer lines are located.

The resulting increase of traffic directly over the lines is the cause of the uneven pavement.

In a related matter, town employees are in the process of smoking and checking sewer lines. Ward 4 is almost done and workers will be moving to Ward 3.

Town spokesperson David Rogers reported that 98 percent of the problems being found with the lines are located on private property.

There was considerable discussion about capping open sewer lines at the town’s tap or on the individual’s property.

Rogers reported the town has numerous open or abandoned lines where mobile homes have been moved or torn down.

Town attorney Richard Thompson will look at similar ordinances and bring something back to council. No action was taken.

During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council agreed to allow the historic cannon to be taken out of state and looked at water/sewer issues in open and closed session.

Council authorized Allen Ashley and the reenactor group to transport the town’s historic cannon to Tennessee, where it will be measured and fitted for a new  carriage. Millers Woodwork will have the cannon for approximately one week, Ashley said.

Under old business, council briefly discussed roof work quotes and decided to seek an enginering study for the building before making any decisions.

Mayor Phillip Clardy said the study will include looking at a crack in the building foundation, termite damage to the front wall of the complex and possible damage to the gymnasium floor.

Council is considering placing new fuel tanks to store and dispense fuel for town vehicles.

Councilman Otis Scott said purchasing fuel in bulk will save the town about 12 cents per gallon. Expected cost for the project is approximately $100,000. Council decided to do a cost payback analysis before proceeding.

The town is reconsidering a uniform maintenance agreement. Police Chief David Baker said his department is saving money by having a washer and dryer which allows them to do some of their own.

Council unanimously agreed to seek bids for stump grinding in the park.

A question about whether council-elect members should be allowed to attend executive ssessins and other sensitive meetings led to a discussion.

Attorney Thompson told council that a council-elect would not have any more or less power than an ordinary citizen. According to Thompson, until an official is sworn in, he is not allowed to be involved in privileged discussions or in an executive session.

Council then went into an executive session to discuss Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrade status and related land contracts.

Upon returning to regular session  no action was taken.

Following the meeting, Harrison said Goldie and Associates has been in the process of negotiating a land purchase contract for the town’s proposed land application process, but declined to name the land owner.

She said some surveying is being done on Big Creek Road for possible access lines.

Streetscape project nearing completion

Members of the Greater Williamston Business Association recently presented the Town of Williamston with a check for $10,000 to help with the town’s purchase of lights for the downtown streetscape project.

GWBA president John Thomason presented the check to Council at the beginning of a special called meeting held Aug. 8.

The funding will supplement the town’s purchase of decorative street lights along East Main St. as part of the current streetscape project that is underway.

The town considered the option of leasing the lights indefinitely from Duke Energy for $551 per month or to purchase the lights outright and pay $197 monthly. Both options included installation and a 10 year service agreement. 

Council authorized the purchase in July, raising the cost of the project by an extra $20,000  but saving the town money after the six year payback period.

The Town and the Greater Williamston Business Association each appropriated half of the additional amount.

Council approved $10,000 to be used toward the purchase of the 10 decorative street lights. The funding for the lights will come from the town’s hospitality tax fund and was matched with $10,000 from the GWBA.

“I know that the GWBA had also helped fund some of the early studies on this project, but they really stepped forward when the Town needed their support, and we were able to purchase these lights, which we felt would be to our advantage in the long run,” said Mayor Phillip Clardy.

GWBA members raised the funds from a variety of fundraising projects over the years in hopes of someday using the money for a downtown renovation project.

The main fundraiser has been an annual GWBA golf tournament, coordinated by Shirley Simpson of Ace Hardware.  This year’s tournament will be held next Friday, August 29 at Saluda Valley Country Club and there is room for a last minute team entry, Simpson said.

Construction on the streetscape project was scheduled to be completed in time for the Spring Water Festival, however a delay by Williamston Councilmembers in signing the check requisition and check for payment to Duke Energy for the light purchase delayed the project by one week.

The necessary paperwork was completed when the GWBA check presentation was made August 8.

According to GWBA president Thomason, workers are expected to install the decorative light poles, planters and trees next week to finish the project.

The current work constitutes phase one of a design that the Town Council approved in February. The project includes changes in the sidewalks, with bulb out extensions, planters and landscaping and decorative lighting. The project includes two stamped ashphalt crosswalks, one in front of Complete Healing and Wellness Center and a second at McDonald’s to allow easier access to and from the Mineral Spring Park.

The GWBA streetscape committee will meet in coming weeks to begin planning for Phase 2, which will be submitted to SCDOT later this year for possible grant funding.

The town was originally awarded $105,000 by SCDOT for the project, which also received an additional $20,000 committment secured by Anderson County Council member Cindy Wilson.

Town and Country Construction was awarded the construction contract with a bid of $119,810. The lights added an additional $41,620 to the total cost of the project.

Filing ends Thursday

Books will remain open at the Williamston Municipal Center until 12 noon on August 21 for anyone interested in running for Council or Mayor.  Williamston voters will decide who they want to serve as Mayor, and on Council Ward 3 and Ward 4 in the town’s election to be held in conjunction with the November 4 general election.

Incumbent Phillip Clardy, now in his eighth year is running for a third term. Challengers include two current councilmembers, Ward 1 Councilman Carthel Crout and Ward 4 Councilman Otis Scott.

If Crout loses his bid for mayor, he will retain his seat on council because his term is not over. If Scott loses his bid for mayor, he will no longer be a member of council after the end of the year because his term is over.

Ward 3 Councilmember David Harvell is facing a new challenger, Walter Smith, Sr.. Mike Looper has filed for the Ward 4 seat currently held by Scott and will apparently be unopposed. A fourth candidate for mayor, Danny Allen, has not signed up or turned in any signatures.

Thursday,  Aug. 21 is the last day to file for the town’s open offices. Questions have arisen concerning the information required on the potential candidates petition form.

In addition to signatures of registered voters, the petition guidelines clearly ask for a voter’s registration number. However, according to election officials, social security numbers (last four) or drivers license numbers will be accepted but are very much not preferred.

 The election commission cannot access DMV files to confirm the information, so drivers license numbers and social security numbers are used as a last resort to verify signatures, Anderson County Election Commission officials said.

Persons planning to vote in the Nov. 4 election must be registered by October 4.

Marijuana bust nets four pounds

Williamston Police officers confiscated more than four pounds of marijuana and more than $2,000 in cash during a recent drug bust.

After a month long investigation, the Williamston Police Department arrested Christopher Danielle Coleman of 308 East Carolina St., in Williamston in connection with the distribution of marijuana.

According to Police Chief David Baker, investigation into possible distribution of narcotics began after the department received complaints several months ago of high traffic coming and going from Coleman’s residence.

Several controlled buys were made by undercover informants  and probable cause arrest warrants were obtained.

After being taken into custody, Coleman consented to Captain Kevin Evatt for a search of the residence, which resulted in approximately four pounds of marijuana and $2,000 in cash being seized.

Coleman is facing two counts of distribution of marijuana, two counts of distribution of marijuana within proximity of a school, park or playground, one count of possession with intent to distribute, one count of possession with intent to distribute within proximity of a school, park or playground.

Coleman is currently out on bond.

“I am very proud of Capt. Evatt and others from my staff who assisted in this case, and as the next few months pass, we hope to conclude additional investigations within our town, and hold those individuals who bruise our community by dealing illegal narcotics accountable for their actions,” Chief Baker said.

Local author’s book featured in Emmys gift bag

Former Williamston resident Angela Martin has authored a book entitled “How To Ruin Your Ex-Husband’s Life One Day At A Time....,” which will be included in a special gift bag being given to celebrities during the Emmys awards ceremony later this year.

Martin has been invited by Hollywood Film and TV Executive Producer, Heather Holliday, to be one of the hand-selected sponsors of the exclusive celebrity event MixMedia Award Suites & Alive! Expo Green Pavilion held at the luxurious Sofitel LA Hotel in Beverly Hills during the Emmys awards ceremony.

Her book has been chosen to be showcased in the highly sought after official Hollywood Mixmedia Luxury Gift Bag. The book is an exclusive item currently available only through a website and at a few local outlets in her hometown of Williamston.

Whether newly separated, recently divorced, or not so recently divorced, the book will make you laugh out loud during a time when sadness can predominate your life, Martin said.

Chapters include: Dirty Laundry, Baby Food For Thought, Prince (not-so) Charming, Who Wouldn’t Want A Wife?, When In-Laws Become Out-Laws, Division of Property, What is in a Name?, The Spite Diet, Learning To Redneckognize (registered trademark), Honey, It’s Your Turn With the Kids, Gifts That Keep On Giving, Fake Dates and Freak Outs, Modern Day Dating Game, One Night Stands, Boy Practice, Post Marital Sex, To Do/To Don’t List, Must Haves In A Man, and much more.

According to Martin, the 150 page, paper back edition book will make you laugh and help you heal through what can prove to be one of the most difficult situations in your life...especially if you are a single mom.

Martin said the book was written after going through the process of healing following the breakup of her marriage. She said she hopes it will help others who go through a divorce.

If you were watching the Early Morning Show last week, you may have seen Martin as she was promoting her book in New York City.

She will be doing a book signing this Saturday, August 23 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. just up Main St. from the Spring Water Festival at Something Unique Flowers and Finery, 310 West Main St. Williamston.

Whisenhunt named Teacher of the Year

Dr. James Whisenhunt was selected as the Anderson District One 2008-2009 Teacher of the Year. Dr. Whisenhunt is a graduate of Clemson University and a National Board Certified Teacher. He is a chemistry teacher at Wren High School.

As the Teacher of the Year, Dr. Whisenhunt will represent Anderson District One in the competition for South Carolina Teacher of the Year, will serve on a state-wide advisory panel to the State Department of Education, and will receive $1,000 in recognition of his outstanding achievements. 

“I love my kids and find great joy in what I do. I know of nothing else I would rather do,” Dr. Whisenhunt stated. “Each day I provide a rich and safe environment where students can explore concepts, ask questions and discover new and exciting things. I am always learning, always trying to be a better teacher today than I was yesterday.”

“Dr. Whisenhunt has a true love for teaching,” said Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler. “He has high expectations for his students and provides assistance for each child to achieve academically. He has dedicated his life to teach students and does so with a passion.”

Robbie Binnicker, Principal at Wren High, said, “Dr. Whisenhunt loves his students and loves the content that he uncovers every day. His enthusiasm for teaching and the joy he receives from student learning is exceptional.”

The Teacher of the Year from each school in Anderson One was recognized at the district opening assembly on August 15. Two finalists were Jane Ayers, of Wren Elementary School and Mary Howell, of Powdersville Middle. Teachers of the Year serve on the Superintendent’s Forum.

Teachers of the years for individual schools included: Cedar Grove Elementary, Kristy Smith; Concrete Primary, Natalie Clayton; Hunt Meadows Elementary, Shane Thompson; Palmetto Elementary, Karen Sweat; Pelzer Elementary, Richard Lamar Beach; Powdersville Elementary, Kelley Golden; Spearman Elementary, Paige Eubanks; West Pelzer Elementary, Angie Lowery; Wren Elementary, Jane Ayers; Palmetto Middle School, Susan Schultheis; Powdersville Middle School, Mary Howell; Wren Middle School, Janice K. Webster; Palmetto High School, Toney Patricia Wolf; Wren High School , Dr. Whisenhunt, named teacher of the year.

Railroad right of way becomes issue in proposed road closing

By Stan Welch

The proposed abandonment and closure of a road in the Cheddar community is drawing strong opposition from the residents of the area, and from the Anderson County Transportation Department, at least for now.

An encroachment officer from the County Transportation Department was dispatched to the scene of the proposed closing on Monday after reports that railroad personnel the there and were planning to begin tearing up the tracks. He left after GWRR owner Stephen Hawkins, who was present with another worker and a utility trailer, drove off.

The Greenville and Western Railroad wants to close the railroad crossing on Lewis Drive in order to build a switching station. The adjacent land is slated for construction of an ethanol storage facility, similar to the gasoline storage facilities already in the Belton tank farm, according to representative of the railroad.  The switching station would shunt the rail cars off the main track and into the facility.

While the process for seeking abandonment of a road by the county includes a thirty day period for public comment, this time, the railroad has essentially informed the county of its intentions to close the road, rather than requesting the closure.

Amy Plummer, whose Peerless Economic Development Group, a sales team within the Allison Properties brokerage, owned by Ken Allison, represents the railroad on real estate and economic development matters, told The Journal that the railroad owns the right of way and will close the road when the time comes.

“They are working with the county to make the transition smoother, but that crossing meets all the criteria of the Surface Transportation Board and it can be closed without the County’s permission.”

County Transportation Director Holt Hopkins confirmed that that is the railroad’s position. “The railroad claims that they have a prior right of way. The county does not agree.”

Plummer says the Greenville Spartanburg and Anderson Railroad, chartered in 1911, owned the right of way and that it has followed the railroad through its various purchases and incarnations under different names.

Among Plummer’s activities in relation to the proposed closing and construction of the facility was the purchase of a house at the corner of Lewis Drive and the rail line itself.

An e-mail sent to County Administrator Joey Preston, seeking a statement of the county’s position in the matter, and mentioning reports of Ms. Plummer’s activities involving the transaction, was apparently forwarded to her. Preston never responded to the e-mail himself.

Plummer, however, contacted The Journal and insisted her actions involving the purchase of a house near the site on behalf of the railroad were completely ethical. She insisted on a face to face interview, an interview to which she was accompanied by Allison.

Her real estate license is with the Allison Properties, as is the license of District Four Councilman Bill McAbee, who was involved in the recruitment and location of Lincoln Energy’s ethanol site.

Plummer affirmed that McAbee had no role in the latest transaction, and received absolutely no compensation related to that transaction.

The County Administrator recently received a letter from the railroad, expressing their intent to close the road. Sometime after Preston received the letter, he sent it on to Hopkins, and Hopkins posted a sign at the site informing the public of the proposal and inviting public comment, as the process requires. The sign was posted a week ago last Monday.

“We give the public thirty days to comment, while we study issues like traffic flow and the impact the closing might have. In this case, we were caught off guard because of the right of way claim made by the railroad,” said Hopkins.

The Transportation Director wasn’t the only one surprised by the aggressive move by the railroad.

“No one in this community knew a thing about this until last week,” said Steve Chapman, who owns a home adjacent to the proposed site of the storage yard.

Chapman has organized a petition drive to oppose the closing and has already gathered several dozen signatures. “Everybody out here is mad about this. We’re against it completely and we don’t like the way the county tried to slip it in on us.”

Chapman says he has contacted elected officials at both the state and federal level. “This just isn’t the right way to go about things. This needs to be looked at, and we’re asking our elected people to help us do that.”

Hopkins said that he intends to maintain the road until “a court or the Anderson County Council tells me otherwise. I intend to protect the roads of Anderson County until I am instructed otherwise.”

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was surprised and upset to learn of the situation last week. “This is not the way to do business in a community. I should have been notified and the process to request abandonment should be followed. There are some serious issues to be considered in this situation.”

Plummer said that work is expected to start on the facility this month, and that it is hoped that trains will have access to the facility by December 1.

“This will make a better residential community for those folks once we make that road a cul de sac,” she said.

Opening day goes smooth for schools

According to Anderson School District One officials, opening day went smoothly across the District for teachers, parents, and students.

District One opened the school day with 9,136 students, 174 students more than when school opened last year. Enrollment is expected to climb until the week of Labor Day and then stabilize.

A large majority of parents drove their children to school which created some traffic congestion, which is to be expected on the first day, said District spokesperson Jane Harrison. “There were a few tears and one school hosted a “boo-hoo breakfast” to support those parents.” Harrison said the most anxious students were those moving into new schools: kindergarten to first grade, elementary to middle and middle to high.

Dr. Wayne Fowler, superintendent for Anderson One, said, “Schools were in top notch condition and administrators and teachers were well prepared and ready for the students to come back this morning. We are looking forward to this school year and the new initiatives in place.”

A few minor bus problems occurred at Concrete Primary when one bus was sideswiped by a private day care van which caused minor scratches, and a bus overheated. No student injury occurred.

Homeowner says builder, inspectors did poor job

By Stan Welch

A homeowner in one of Anderson County’s finer neighborhoods has serious problems with the performance of the county building inspectors.

Bill Chandler, who recently built a home in the Chestnut Springs development, says that the County inspectors routinely signed off on work which was done improperly, did not meet county codes, or simply wasn’t done at all. He contends that the county’s failure to enforce standards resulted in tens of thousands of dollars worth of repairs that are needed on the house; repairs that will almost certainly have to be made at Chandler’s expense, since the builder in question recently declared bankruptcy.

“He did that to avoid being held accountable for his miserable performance,” said Chandler. “I have a civil lawsuit filed against him, and there is a hearing scheduled with the state licensing, labor and regulations board (LLR) at which I fully expect that his contracting license will be revoked. But I have virtually no chance of recovering my losses, and I firmly believe that the county failed to do its job.”

Chandler, who owns an engineering company in Powdersville, says that he is certainly qualified to make the allegations he is making, both against the builder and the county.

“But really, it doesn’t take any special expertise. I mean, if you’re standing on a porch with no screen installed, I don’t know exactly how you can sign off on it as being a screen porch. But the county inspector did. I have the paperwork to prove it.”

 Chandler says he picked H & D Construction of Inman, SC because his lender recommended them. “They did decent work at first, but they got worse and worse.”

The building permit for the house, which is over 5000 square feet, was issued in March of 2007. By September, Chandler was in touch with the LLR office, filing a complaint about the work being done, and not being done, on his house.

By December of 2007, Chandler was corresponding with Barry Holcombe of the county codes department, expressing his concerns about the construction. In a letter dated December 10, Chandler informed Holcombe of structural and other deviations from the international residential code, as well as “of standard engineering practices and standard construction practices. Over the course of construction we were assured by our builder, H & D Construction, that these items would be repaired. To date, none have.”

By this time, the LLR had already been contacted but had informed Chandler that the county had responsibility for the first two years of the structure’s life.

In January of  2008, Robertson –Wade Engineering, issued their independent report, which described the work as substandard. The report went on to recommend hiring a new contractor to repair the deficiencies and even demolish and restore some of the construction. Chandler says the projected costs of the repairs approached $200,000.

“What I can’t understand is how the various phases of work were approved by county inspectors. I mean many of these areas were glaring. I had walls inside the house that had no insulation in them. The area over the front porch was never insulated. Code violations are visible everywhere. The inspectors would catch these things on first inspection, but they never verified whether they had been corrected. The builder would assure them he’d take care of things, but he didn’t. I have a report from a reputable engineer that shows that.”

Chandler says that when he presented the independent engineering report to the builder, citing all the repairs and changes to be made, the builder simply pulled off the job and didn’t return. “He had already hired a lawyer when I got LLR involved. So he just left and has never come back or taken another phone call from me. I just feel like if the county had done its job and made him address the violations at the proper time, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Chandler says to add insult to injury, he recently received notice from the county that he had not yet fenced in his pool and the permit to do so had expired and would need to be renewed. “If I hadn’t been tied up fighting this guy, because the county didn’t enforce their own codes, I would have had the damn fence up by now. So now I have to buy another license. This is absolutely crazy.”

$10 million GO bond approved by County

By Stan Welch

 Meeting for the first time in more than a month, the Anderson County Council spent more than five hours plowing through an agenda that contained numerous presentations by organizations and five public hearings.

 So tiresome was the meeting that District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, who arrived an hour late, asked to have the agenda amended so that she could make her funding requests and go home early. District Three Councilman Larry Greer also left abruptly, apparently feeling bad. Reports indicate that he went to the emergency room and later was released.

One Councilman who seemed to be enjoying the events of the evening was Councilman Bob Waldrep, whose reputation for gentle sarcasm and sly quips certainly didn’t suffer Tuesday night.

During a discussion of the minutes of a recent budget work session, Councilman Ron Wilson asked if a document Waldrep referred to in that meeting could be provided to the council.

Waldrep replied that he might be able to find it, but added “ You know, in Anderson County, records can be hard to come by”, referring to his own battles to obtain financial records of the county.

At another juncture of the meeting, Waldrep wanted to ask a county staff member a question. “Mr. Preston, would it be all right with you if I speak to Mr. Ricketson,” asked Waldrep, who, along with Councilwoman Wilson, is being sued by Preston for what he claims is interference in Preston’s running of the county administration. Ms. Wilson was actually served with the lawsuit Tuesday night as she entered council chambers.

Waldrep later responded to Chairman Michael Thompson’s question as to whether Waldrep had any appointments to make, “No Mr. Chairman, I have no appointments, only disappointments.”

Key among the issues addressed was a $10 million general obligation bond that has been proposed. During a public hearing on that bond, speaker after speaker rose and opposed the issuance of the bond, repeatedly citing the general economic condition of the nation and the county.

Several speakers recommended creating special tax districts to fund some of the projects, such as parks and the renovated community building at Broadway Lake. “Try that and then you’ll see how badly they want those things in their area,” said Rick Freemantle.

Following the public hearing, Council began its discussion of the proposed bond issue. District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson asked if any of the money was slated to be used for a steeplechase or equestrian facility. She was told it would not.

She then offered several amendments to the bond ordinance, including adding a quarantine and holding facility for large animals to the proposed $3.2 animal shelter; to reallocate $915,000 earmarked to build a new community building at Broadway Lake towards a fund to match a federal grant to be used in replacing the Broadway Lake dam and road; and to take half the $10 million and allocate it to be used on the county’s roads and bridges.

Councilman Waldrep challenged the Council to show some restraint. “You can look anywhere in this state and there is no place as spend happy as Anderson County. Budgets in counties went up two or three per cent. Ours went up twenty four per cent. Do we ever even look at ways to save money? I never even hear that word around here. Now, we’re going to see four people vote for this bond because one had left, unless somewhere deep down inside them, there is still a small spark somewhere, some conscience that has survived. These four people know deep in their hearts that this is absolutely wrong.”

The bond issue received second reading approval by a vote of 4-2.

 Council also gave third reading approval to an ordinance establishing zoning in the Three and Twenty voting precinct, after Councilman Ron Wilson amended the ordinance to remove an exemption he had placed in the ordinance at second reading. At that meeting, Wilson had asked that AnMed, which owns a considerable amount of property in the precinct, be exempted from the RA zoning that was recommended for the area, and to instead be zoned at R-20, which would allow for much denser development.

Wilson said he had since spoken with several residents of the Chestnut Springs subdivision, and had been persuaded that he had made a mistake in proposing the exemption. “I have no problem with R-20 zoning, but I do think that AnMed should have to go through the process as well as anyone else. That allows for more local input from the advisory board and the planning commission. So I would ask that we remove the clause exempting AnMed from this zoning,” said Wilson.

The Council gave final approval by a vote of 6-0.

Council defeated a proposed burning ban by a tie vote of 3-3. They also voted to offer expanded economic incentives to AFCO, a subsidiary of Bosch Corporation, in order to retain the facility, which will be introducing new product lines. The incentives are designed to keep AFCO from closing the local plant and moving the expanded operations to their Mexican location. The expansion will produce only twenty new jobs over the next two years, but would retain 330 existing jobs, as those employees are retrained for the new products lines.

Seems to Me . . . The latest lawsuit

By Stan Welch

Have you all heard about county administrator Joey Preston’s latest lawsuit against two members of the County Council? No?

Well, he’s suing them partly for something he claims they already did, and he’s suing them for something he says they said they would do. But there is some reason to believe that he is suing them simply because he can. And he can because he gets to do so on our dime, not his.

You know, when I was a kid, I was like a lot of other kids. I wanted a pony. I wanted a pony all my very own to ride when I wanted to. I wanted this pony because I grew up loving cowboys and I wanted to be one. I loved Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and Lash Larue and all those guys. And I wanted a pony for my pet.

Never once in my whole life did I ever want my very own pet lawyer. It simply never crossed my mind. I don’t even know what you would have to want to be to think that having your very own lawyer would be cool.

But apparently Mr. Preston has always wanted his very own lawyer. And he has one – at least. Of course, like a pony, lawyers can be expensive. I guess that’s why Mr. Preston always finds a way to let us pay for his.

Anyhow, this latest lawsuit claims that on December 12, 2007 Mr. Waldrep and Ms. Wilson went into the county finance offices and behaved pretty badly in the presence of some county employees. Now, given the reports of some of the behavior of various department heads and higher ups around county employees over the past few years; behavior that either went un-prosecuted or unpunished or got settled out of court, I shudder to think what Wilson and Waldrep must have done to trigger this lawsuit.

But the lawsuit contains some clues. One clue is the section that states, “An actual controversy exists between plaintiff and defendants in relation to their respective rights and obligations under state law regarding the supervision and direction of Anderson County employees.”

Why yes there does! There does exist a controversy about who should do what under home rule. Of course that controversy was largely settled, at least theoretically, by this year’s primary, in which three Council members who have slavishly accepted Mr. Preston’s authority were soundly defeated and sent home. They should arrive about December 31.

And make no mistake folks, that defeat is what this lawsuit is about. The alleged offenses took place in December of 2007. It sure took those employees a long time to get offended, or for that workplace to become hostile. And to be honest, for the money some of the employees in question are making, you couldn’t make a workplace hostile enough to bother me.

No, this is a tactic designed to occupy the Council between now and January, when its make up will change so drastically; it is also intended as a warning shot across the bow of the oncoming Council. “Cross me and I will sue you too.” That is the message being sent.

Of course, this latest action continues to build Preston’s reputation for suing elected officials; a reputation that makes him a legend at the South Carolina Association of Counties, and a pariah whenever other counties start looking for administrators to hire.

This question should and could have been settled by a simple request for an opinion by the Attorney General. But that wouldn’t have helped feed Mr. Preston’s pet attorney, and it wouldn’t have cost Waldrep and Wilson their own money.

Of course, if the current County Council had simply told Preston that suing two of the surviving Council members was unacceptable, this whole silly mess could have been avoided. Oh, I forgot. He didn’t receive a formal vote by Council to approve the lawsuit; he simply called 1-800- HERE I GO AGAIN and filed the suit.

The lawsuit goes on to state that “the Anderson County Council has never voted to authorize individual members of Council to direct the actions of Anderson County employees.” Well, then! Let’s amend this lawsuit to include Ms. Floyd, who routinely directs employees’ actions, both in and outside open sessions of the Council. “Mr. Hopkins, will you see to that? Ms. Humphreys, will you make that happen?” Over and over she instructs county employees in their duties. Where is the line drawn, Mr. Preston? Where it crosses your toes?

Mr. McAbee and Mr. Thompson  have repeatedly referred to actions they asked employees to undertake and which were undertaken; Mr. Greer constantly boasts that he goes to employees’ offices and obtains information with out any trouble. Let’s add their names to the lawsuit. Or is it unkind to sue lame ducks?

Mr. Wilson seems to get by with less direct assistance from county employees than others, except when he’s mounting a charge either for or against zoning.

You know, out of all the provisos and codicils and clauses and subsections of the Home Rule Act, it seems like there would be one somewhere that says “Thou shalt not sue the elected officials for whom you work.” As my old Daddy used to say about other topics, “If there ain’t, there oughtta be.”

I could go on and on about how silly and yes, stupid, this latest assault by Mr. Preston is. But it seems to me a friend of mine put it in perspective pretty well the other day.

If Mr. Preston even thinks that he may be gone as administrator once the new Council is seated, if he thinks he is on thin ice, why in the world would you sue the two members whom you know have already lost confidence in you? That’s hardly an exercise in bridge building is it?

Whatever Mr. Preston’s strategy is, and believe me, it doesn’t involve any noble desire to protect his employees or clarify the status of home rule in South Carolina, he better hope it works,

 ‘Cause it seems to me there are lots better ways of polishing up that resume’.












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