Week of Nov.
police fines raise questions
The Williamston Police department is in the spotlight again this week after a news report raised questions about the handling of police fines.
According to records, the Williamston Police department had a long standing practice of reducing speeding tickets of 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, a 4-point violation, to driving 9 miles over the limit, a 2-point violation.
Violators would be asked to pay a fine and assessment based on the original 4-point violation.
The practice was apparently stopped in 2002.
The timing of the news story has raised questions among many of the towns residents of a possible political motivation, because of the public announcement of the questionable practice just prior to the election, which was being hotly contested between incumbent Phillip Clardy and opponent John C. Neel III.
Apparently Neel signed off on the tickets while acting as the towns assistant municipal judge.
Mayor Clardy said the ticket fine situation was under internal investigation and that the breaking of the news story was not politically motivated.
Williamston Municipal Judge Jimmy Cox said he first raised concerns about the police departments practice of charging inflated speeding fines within several months of taking over the magistrates position in 1997.
Cox said he brought the concern to former Williamston Police Chief Richard Turner and former Mayor Marion Middleton.
He said he told them the departments typical practice of assessing a fine of $90 instead of $38 for a 2-point speeding violation was inappropriate according to the state court administration, the attorney generals office and the state highway department.
He said he told them he would immediately cease to sign off on the inflated fines.
Cox told The Journal that Turner said he would continue writing tickets as they always had because the opinion was just that, an opinion.
Cox said that he had a memo titled confidential report dated November 2002, which was written to Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal but never sent.
Cox said he didnt send the memo because he decided the issue was being taken care off.
According to Coxs report, certain officers had been encouraged to take speeding cases before Judge Neel, who was responsible for signing off on the majority of speeding cases in which drivers paid fines and did not challenge tickets in court.
According to Bob McCurdy, the senior staff attorney for the state Court Administration that oversees municipal and magistrate courts, magistrates and municipal judges attend training sessions on what is and is not legal.
He said the practice raised procedural problems if a municipal judge was unaware that the inflated fines were not allowed for under state law.
The Town of Williamston has insurance coverage as of this week, according to Harvey Mathias, Director of Risk Management Service for the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
As of this week there has been no cancellation of coverage, Mathias said Tuesday.
A town employee was sent to Columbia with checks to pay delinquent payments on the towns insurance, which was under threat of cancellation if payment was not received by October 31.
Mathias said the town sent payments to cover the workers compensation premium of $17,686 and the towns property liability premium of $38,477 for the remainder of the year.
However, the potential for cancellation of the towns health insurance remains, according to Mathias if the premium is not paid by the end of November.
The town sent payment enough to cover only about half of the outstanding amount of $81,726 due October 1 for employees health insurance coverage.
A 30 day extension has been granted on the health insurance premium, Mathias said. There has been no cancellation.
Because additional property tax monies and others are beginning to come in, Mathias said he was confident the town should be able to meet their committments.
We certainly do not want to cut off a municipality, Mathias said. Were glad this worked out to get coverage caught up.
Mathias said he has sent a letter to the mayor and council indicating that the Municipal Association had received payment on the premiums.
He said there is some potential for cancellation if the final payment is not made by the end of November, however he said, We will certainly work with the town.
Mathias said that the mayor indicated that he wanted to get together to discuss the options to prevent the situation from arising in the future.
We want to do everything we can to prevent this type situation, Mathias said.
The town has been as much as $90,000 in arrears with the Municipal Association insurance provider which provides the towns property/liability, workers compensation and health insurance coverage.
The towns insurance coverage is provided through the Municipal Association of South Carolina Risk Management Services.
Mathias said that he had been working with the towns treasurer since August to get caught up on the monthly premiums for the South Carolina Local Government Assurance Group health benefits program.
According to Mathias, the amount owed was reduced to $5,489, though a premium was due August 20.
At that time the health insurance premium was caught up, but the town was behind on the workers compensation and the property liability invoices.
Mathias said the three insurance programs are self funded municipal insurance programs sponsored by the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
The programs are owned by the participating municipalities and are funded by the financial contributions from the members, Mathias said.
For insurance coverages to remain in place, we must receive assurances from the Town of Williamston that invoices will be paid in a timely manner, Mathias said.
A certified letter dated July 26 was sent from Mathias to the town concerning the situation.
The letter states, If some assurance and subsequent follow through, is not provided, the only option left for SCLGAG, SCMIT and /or SCMIRF will be to cancel coverage for nonpayment. I can assure you this is the last thing we want to do to the Town and your employees - to leave you without adequate medical, workers compensation, and property/liability protection.
Mathias said there is no deadline for insurance coverage for a municipality to be cut off if payment is not made. He also said this type situation does not arise often.
The Risk Management director said the Town of Williamston has not been without coverage due to the late payment, however the processing of claims was stopped.
We never cancelled the coverage, we dont want that to happen, Mathias said. We want to continue to provide benefits and do everything we can to work with the town.
Phillip E. Clardy survived a challenge by John C. Neel III, and will return for a second four year term as mayor of Williamston.
Unofficial results show Clardy received 879 votes to Neels 571 votes.
Clardy received 468 votes in the town precinct, 365 in the mill precinct, 2 from Cedar Grove precinct and 46 absentee.
Neel received 387 votes in the town precinct, 149 in the mill precinct, two at Cedar Grove and 33 absentee votes.
Incumbent Councilman David Harvell defeated challenger Gary Bannister 823 to 547 for the Ward 3 seat.
Political newcomer Otis Scott received 45.3 percent of the vote with 636 votes to Wade Peppers 397 votes. Pam Owens received 371 votes as a Ward 4 candidate.
Though it was announced by Williamston election commission chairman Jerry Davis that the Ward 4 seat will be decided by a run off election, Pepper told The Journal Wednesday morning that he does not plan to participate in a runoff.
I see no reason for the town to go through the extra expense for a runoff, he said.
Pepper said that under Home Rule guidelines, in municipalities in which all councilmen are elected at large, the person who receives the highest number of votes for the seat to be filled is declared elected.
Pepper said he encourages the people to give Mr. Scott their support.
Pepper thanked the citizens of Williamston for their support through the years.
It was an honor to be able to serve them, he said.
Election Commission Chairman Davis said that the town experienced record turnout with more than 2767 ballots being cast.
Poll worker Jack Dalton said voters were lined up to cast their ballots at the National Guard Armory (Mill precinct) most of the day, with 1355 ballots being cast.
A crowd of about 40 people including candidates, family members and their supporters watched poll workers verbally call out ballot results and manually tally them.
The majority in attendance were Clardy supporters as evidenced by a cheer that went up when the final numbers were announced.
I would like to congratulate my opponent on a good race, Clardy said after the hand counting of votes at the Palmetto Middle gymnasium confirmed he had won.
I look forward to the continued progress of our town by beginning the healing process to become one community for common goals, he said.
Clardy said he would also like to thank the voters and the community for their support.
Harvell said he wanted to thank the good Lord for allowing him to stay in the office.
Harvell said he tried to run a clean campaign. I will try to work for the best of every citizen of Williamston, he said.
I will work for the betterment of our town and will work to try to keep the services we have and taxes down, he said. I thank everybody who voted for me and look forward to working with council as a team.
Political newcomer Otis Scott will face Wade Pepper in a runoff election on Nov. 16.
Scott thanked voters for coming out and supporting him.
He said he will do what is best for the town and would like to see the town pull together.
The town needs some healing, Scott said. There is a lot of turmoil during this election. I hope and pray we can get our town back in harmony.
Scott said he wants to bring in businesses and bring the towns financial situation under control.
Leslie Ann Mazzara, a former Miss Williamston and Belton-Honea Path High School graduate, was killed Monday in a house invasion in California, according to Napa County Law Enforcement and news reports.
According to police reports, two of three roommates were killed in a double homicide.
Reports state one of the victims was found dead when police arrived and another woman died from her injuries at the scene soon after police arrived. A third roommate escaped and called 911 after hearing the sound of breaking glass and a commotion upstairs where her two roommates had their bedrooms in a rented home.
According to the Napa Police Department, killed in the incident were Mazzara, 26, who was employed with the Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery in Rutherford, CA. and Adraine Michelle Insogna, 26, who was employed by the Napa County Sanitation District. Insogna was also a part-time student at Napa Valley College and a volunteer scorekeeper for the Napa County College womens volleyball team.
Mazzara was a graduate of Belton Honea Path High School in Belton, and the Greenville County Fine Arts Center.
She attended the University of Georgia where she pursued a degree in philosophy.
She was the daughter of Jim Mills and Cathy Harrington.
Mazzara was crowned Miss Williamston in November of 2001.
It was the first pageant experience for the 23-year-old, whose platform was to champion the cause of abused children.
While searching for a platform, a requirement by the Miss America program, the Anderson, S. C. native came across the heartbreaking case of Stephanie Carter.
Carter was a four-year-old whose stepmother and father tortured her to death. The child, also from Anderson, died at the hands of her abusers in October 2000.
They chained her to a tree, and they chained her to a toilet where she spent the majority of the last year and a half of her life, Mazzara said in an interview in the local hometown newspaper, The Williamston Journal.
Mazzara took the cause as her platform and used her reign as Miss Williamston to promote the prevention and awareness of child abuse in her community.
Mazzara was at a press conference where 10th Circuit Court Solicitor Druane White announced the passing of Stephanies Law (a law designed to track people who accumulate a string of child abuse allegations).
I helped her and Senator Bob Waldrep get that passed, Mazzara said.
She took her message to local churches and schools to educate the public on the growing problem of child abuse.
The most enjoyable aspect of being Miss Williamston is speaking to people and helping them understand that child abuse is happening in our community, she said in The Journal interview.
She said spreading the message is hard for anyone with a heart for kids.
The toughest aspect of the title is the same as the most enjoyable - -going to the churches and schools and sharing such sad stories. Ive maybe spoken 10 times and every time I cry, Mazzara said.
During her reign as Miss Williamston, she was a University of Georgia senior and was preparing for the Miss South Carolina pageant in July of 2002.
She planned to do a point ballet routine for the talent portion of the competition.
Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said, She represented our town with the utmost dignity and will certainly be remembered for her beautiful smile and her energy.
State authorities confirmed Tuesday that the West Pelzer Fire Department has received a set of fines for failure to submit reports on time to the Secretary of State as required by state law.
Neil Rashley, Deputy Secretary of State and General Counsel, reported that two fines were imposed on the Fire Department amounting to a total of $2,800.
A $2,000 fine was imposed for late registration with the state under the guidelines of the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act. An additional $800 fine was imposed for late submission of an annual financial report to the state, Rashley said.
The reports were due to the Secretary of State by July 1 and are required as a condition of operating as a charitable, nonprofit entity accepting donations and conducting fundraisers, Rashley added.
Rashley stated that the Fire Department is to pay $250 per month until the fines are paid completely according to a negotiated agreement.
District I County Fire Commissioner Glenn Holliday said that he is in the process of scheduling a meeting with the officers of the station.
Holliday explained that the duties of the county commissioners are to supervise the overall activities of the 27 county volunteer fire stations and to expend the .006 tax to the fire stations.
According to Holliday, it is the responsibility of each community to furnish and operate local stations with a Board of Directors overseeing the operations of the station.
West Pelzer Fire Chief Mark Vickery said that he would be issuing a statement in a couple of days and that everythings been taken of.
Vickery did confirm that the West Pelzer Fire Department has no Board of Directors and that Hilda Tollison operates as treasurer for the local department. According to reports, Tollison was appointed by Vickery and is Vickerys mother-in-law.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one concerned party reports that the members of the Fire Department have seen no financial reports for several months and are concerned about the future of the fire station.
If timely payments are not made, the state could prohibit the Fire Department from conducting fundraisers or could shut down the facility completely, officials said.
Unofficial election results show that voters in the Piedmont Public Service District returned one incumbent and elected one newcomer to fill the two seats on the Board of Commissioners.
Marsha Rogers will return to her seat on the board after receiving 678 votes more than 23 percent of votes cast. Results showed 182 votes were cast for Rogers in Anderson County while she received 496 in Greenville County.
Voters gave the nod to Frankie Garrett to fill the additional seat on the board. Garrett received 98 votes from voters in Anderson County and 509 votes from voters in Greenville County for a total of 607 votes.
Four other candidates captured the remainder of the votes cast. Dan Rawls received a total of 482 votes 85 from voters in Anderson County and 397 from voters in Greenville County.
Robert Higgins was close behind with 435 votes 118 from Anderson County voters and 317 from Greenville County voters.
William Dickson garnered 98 votes from Anderson County voters and 237 from Greenville County voters to total 335 votes.
Political newcomer Michelle Anderson captured 331 votes with 66 of those coming from Anderson County voters and 265 votes coming from citizens in Greenville County.
Rogers said that she is very pleased to be returning to the Board of Commissioners. We have a good board and people who truly care about Piedmont, Rogers commented.
Rogers has served on the Board of Commissioners for 12 years and has served as chairperson for eight years.
So many good things are going on, Rogers said and emphasized that she hopes to continue to work on improvements for Piedmont.
The long, drawn-out process of redevelopment and expansion of the sewer system is the biggest challenge facing the commissioners in the future, Rogers admitted.
Rogers graduated from Woodmont High School and has lived in Piedmont all her life. She has three children and four grandchildren who all live in Piedmont. She is currently active in the Booster Club at Wren High School and is a member of Piedmont United Methodist Church.
Garrett has lived in Piedmont all his life and hopes to build on what has already been done to improve the sewer system in the community.
Garrett, 67, has owned and operated Garrett Heating and Air Conditioning on Highway 20 for 37 years.
Garrett is a member of the International Order of Oddfellows and Rebekahs and has served as grand master, the highest office in the organization. He has also represented South Carolina for 12 years at the international meeting.
He has three children Terry, Eric, and Lesley Collins- and attends Covenant Presbyterian Church on Highway 86 in Piedmont.
I am semi-retired. I feel like I can play a part in improving (the community) instead of seeing it sit idle, said Garrett.
Garrett would also like to keep the community informed on the happenings with the public service district, ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely, and would never vote to raise our millage rate.
Piedmont Public Service District serves almost 20,000 people in Greenville and Anderson counties. Five commissioners sit on the board and receive a salary of $100 a month. Commissioners serve four-year terms and govern the fire, sewer, and recreation services in the district.
Anderson County voters elected a new sheriff and a new auditor in the county election Tuesday.
Republican David Crenshaw will succeed Gene Taylor as Sheriff of Anderson County. According to unofficial election results, Crenshaw captured 36,852 votes - almost sixty per cent of votes cast. Democratic challenger Bob Appell garnered 26,576 votes a little over forty percent of votes cast.
A close race for the position of Anderson County Auditor saw Republican Jacky Hunter unseat Democrat Anna Marie Brock. According to unofficial results, Hunter received 31,964 votes while Brock received 30,147 votes.
Incumbent Cathy Phillips will return to office as Clerk of Court after a challenge from Republican Kathy Lusk. Unofficial results showed Phillips received 32,663 votes to 29,662 votes cast for Lusk.
Voters gave an overwhelming nod to retain current representation in the State House of Representatives and the State Senate.
Capturing almost sixty-five percent of votes cast, Republican Michael Thompson will return to represent House District 9 with 7,432 votes. Democratic challenger Sue Cheney garnered 3,904 votes while Libertarian Doug Taylor received 232 votes in the race.
Senator Billy ODell will continue to represent District 4 in the State Senate after receiving almost sixty percent of votes cast. ODell received a total of 27,056 votes according to unofficial results 662 votes in Abbeville County, 13,841 votes in Anderson County, and 12,553 votes in Greenwood County.
Democratic challenger Jay West captured 18,990 votes 332 votes in Abbeville County, 9,165 votes in Anderson County, and 9,493 votes in Greenwood County.
The Williamston Fire Department announced this week that it will receive a U. S. Department of Homeland Security firefighters grant of $64,844.
Anderson County will provide a required 10% match for the approved project cost of $72,048 according to Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison.
Council District 7 representative Cindy Wilson has asked Anderson County Council to provide the matching amount of $7,204 for the town, Ellison said.
Ellison said the department is extremely fortunate to be able to obtain the highly competitive grant.
Ellison said the federal funds will be used to purchase Scott Breathing Apparatus equipment for 16 firefighters at a cost of $3,834.75 each.
The equipment will bring the department up to OSHA compliance which Ellison said the town has not been able to meet.
The equipment includes an air pack, air bottle and extra air for firefighters that enter a burning building and will replace outdated equipment the department currently uses, according to Chief Ellison.
It also includes a PAS device that sounds an alarm when a fireman is down and not moving.
The equipment will also be used by a new Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) which has been formed to rescue downed firemen.
The RIT team includes firefighters from Williamston, Belton and Honea Path. Teammembers respond from one town when a neighboring town has a major fire, providing backup and taking care of a 2-in-2-out OSHA requirement, according to Ellison.
We are extremely fortunate to be able to obtain this money. Without it we would not be able to purchase this equipment, Ellison said. This allows firefighters to operate under the safest conditions we could possibly provide.