(5104) Week of Dec. 22, 2004
police chief files $1 million lawsuit
Former Williamston Police Chief Richard L. Turner has filed a $1 million lawsuit against The Town of Williamston.
The Town of Williamston was served with papers citing five causes of action on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Town Clerk Hala Cochran signed for the summons after Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy refused to.
In the summons, Turners Attorney Bruce A. Byrholdt of the Law firm of Chapman, Byrhodt & Yon, LLP, Anderson, gives the town 30 days to respond.
In the summons, the first cause of action alleges that Turners arrest following a verbal altercation between Sgt. Zach Gregory and Turner in the Williamston Police Department parking lot on June 23, 2004, resulted after the Anderson County Sheriff and Tenth Circuit Solicitor informed the town that there were no grounds upon which to execute the warrant for Turners arrest. It also cites that the criminal action was dismissed because the warrant issued was not properly secured under the laws of the state and the United States.
It goes on to state, as a result of the actions of the Town, Turner was subjected to an assault and battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, deprivation of liberty and invasion of his privacy and damage to his reputation.
The second cause of action states that the arrest and detention of Turner by the Town was done unlawfully, intentionally and maliciously without just or probable cause for the express purpose of trying to justify the illegal arrest and assault of Turner
It also states the arrest and detention violated Turners rights under the Constitution of the State and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U. S. Constitution.
A third cause cites the arrest, assault and imprisonment of Turner were carried out with the gross negligence, and/or wanton and reckless disregard of the consequences as to show the Town had a conscious indifference to the harm to Turner and the intent to inflict injury upon him.
A fourth cause of action cites Turners right to be secure in his person to be free from unlawful seizure and arrest and to be allowed due process and equal protection of the law.
In the fifth cause of action, Turner asserts he was fired in violation of the Towns Code of Ordinances which states that a municipal officer, such as the Chief of Police, could be discharged by a vote of the Town Council. It states Turner was fired by the mayor in violation of the ordinance.
It also states because of the unlawful termination, Turner has suffered economic loss, suffered mental anquish, been subjected to ridicule and will have to continue to suffer economic loss and mental anguish in the future.
Spartanburg Solicitor Trey Gowdys office has completed a review of four separate State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigations into alleged public corruption and misappropriation of funds in the Town of Williamston and no charges are to be filed.
Seventh Judicial Circuit Deputy Solicitor Donnie Willingham stated in a December 16 letter sent to SLED that after reviewing a 304 page report of approximately 26 allegations of misconduct by Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy, he believes the allegations are without merit.
According to Willingham, Gowdys office received a request in early 2004 by 10th Circuit Court Solicitor Druanne White to review the SLED report. White asked for the review of a SLED report to avoid any apparent conflict of interest.
Willingham states in the letter to SLED that the allegations were made by former and current employees of the town who are either actively pursuing or admittedly considering civil action against the Town of Williamston.
Of the 26 allegations, only nine involved potential criminal liability if proven true Willingham said. SLED was asked to investigate the nine items on March 15, 2004.
On April 21, after further investigation, SLED provided 219 pages of additional documentation showing the majority of the allegations to be without merit.
On June 15, SLED was again asked to further investigate three more allegations.
On July 6, SLED provided a third report showing the final allegations to be without merit as well.
According to Willingham, Gowdys office received three additional letters detailing further concerns with the mayor of Williamston.
Again, SLED was asked to investigate the three issues. On November 5, 2004, SLED provided a 105 page report showing these concerns to be without merit as well, Willingham said.
Among allegations investigated were suggestions that the firings of former police chief Richard Turner and Danny Hart were made in exchange for a $50,000 donation to the mayors church; questions about the mayor buying flowers and meals for his family with town money or the town credit card; and use of town workers to move a tree for his brother, a Williamston police officer. One allegation was that the mayor took his family to Hilton Head.
Willingham said that his office and SLED had done an exhaustive investigation and did not find anything criminal.
It turned out that the trip to Hilton Head was for government business, a meeting of the South Carolina Municipal Association, he said.
There was no evidence that he took his parents. The investigator talked with the people who took down the tree and it was not paid for by the Town, Willingham said. The investigator talked with the CPA who does the church books.There was no evidence of a gift to his church.
Willingham said that after one year of looking through allegations, he received three more letters from one of the parties asking for investigation. All were negative he said.
Special agent J. L. Kindley did a very professional and very thorough investigation, Willingham said. He didnt leave any possible lead unfollowed.
Willingham stated that he met with two of the complainants on December 16 and explained the matters were more political than criminal in nature.
It appears that the Town of Williamston has a very stong mayoral system of government. As such, the mayor is able to exercise a great deal of discretion in conducting government business. In order for such a system to be changed to a strong city council form of government, the complainants should lobby their council for a change, Willingham stated.
After an exhaustive
investigation, the majority of the allegations are not criminal in
nature. Of the few allegations that are potentially criminal in
nature, none are supported by evidence. The allegations appear to be
nothing more than mere speculation and rumor. Accordingly, no charges
will be filed in this matter and the investigation should be
considered complete. Should evidence come forward, we will consider
reopening the investigation at that time, he said.
Williamston Town Council was expected to hold first reading on the 2005 budget at the December 20 meeting of Council. Details of the meeting will be published in the Dec. 29 edition of The Journal.
Council is expected to approve the budget presented by Mayor Phillip Clardy which will include items requested by department supervisors at earlier budget meetings.
First reading on the 2005 budget was postponed from both the Nov. 22 and the December 6 meetings of Council.
At the Dec. 6 meeting, Clardy said supervisors were still in the process of getting estimates and finalizing figures for their department needs.
Since June of this year, there have been several called meetings of council that were announced as budget worksessions, though very little discussion of the budget or the approved Bond Anticipation Note (BAN) has taken place.
Williamston Town Council began discussing borrowing as much as $565,000 as early as June 28 to meet a financial shortfall.
In September, Council approved first reading on a bond anticipation note of $400,000.
Mayor Clardy said he has met with several banks in an attempt to get the best rate, but as of Dec. 8 had not finalized a loan with a borrower.
Due to an early presstime, Clardy could not be reached for comments on the borrowing or the proposed budget.
Clardy said the amount approved by Council earlier this year will allow the town to get caught up on current debt amounting to $280,000 and provide $120,000 in operating capital to get the town through the end of the year.
Clardy said even though the BAN was approved in September, there is a 60 day waiting period for issuance of bond notes.
He also said the town will move forward and will get through the difficult financial period.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement throughout the state announced plans to bring down the fatality rate in January with a long-range concentrated enforcement/education effort called Target Zero.
January 2004 represented one of the bloodiest beginnings to the year ever recorded with 88 fatalities compared to 46 the year before and 20 fatalities above the average for that month.
This carnage on our highways began on New Years Eve weekend this year and didnt slow down until the summer, said SCDPS Director James K. Schweitzer. We want the public to know that we are concentrating every enforcement muscle we have state and local to prevent such tragedies again this January. Losing a loved one is no way for families to start their new year.
Target Zero is also a long-range plan that is being adopted by local law enforcement, along with the state effort, to eliminate highway tragedies one town, one county, one highway at a time. One fatality is one too many, Schweitzer said.
The Highway Patrol, State Transport Police and local law enforcement agencies will team up to focus enforcement efforts on roadways of specific concern using such tools as saturation enforcement, reallocation of manpower to high-crash areas and public safety checkpoints to combat fatalities.
The primary targeted violations will be DUI and speed, which contributed to a disproportionate amount of collisions last January.
Participating local law enforcement have identified a specific corridor that has led their areas in DUI/Speed-related collisions in the past three years.
The Highway Patrol will work with the State Transport Police focusing on specific times/dates, counties and roadways for their enforcement effort.
We are letting our data guide our enforcement efforts, said Highway Patrol Colonel Russell F. Roark. Problem areas dont just crop up typically. If there is a pattern of problems in January, most of the time these are the same areas, that for a variety of reasons, present problems all year.
While enhanced enforcement will take place all over the state throughout the Christmas and New Years holidays, specific high-crash areas can expect to see extra enforcement throughout January, particularly on weekends and other times of the day considered to be high-risk.
The DPS Office of Highway Safety will also unveil two new federally funded BAT Mobiles, which are mobile breath alcohol testing units, as well as its South Carolina Law Enforcement Networks, which are working toward creating more uniformity and partnering throughout law enforcement on safety initiatives.
The SCDPS will also continue its safety education program by showing its highway safety curriculum DVDs, particularly focusing on industry in January. Radio spots promoting Target Zero will begin hitting the airwaves in December and posters promoting the effort will be pushed out to schools to remind students of the effort as they return from the holiday break.
2003 was the first time in five years that the state had finished the year with less than 1,000 fatalities.
So far this year, there have been 956 fatalities compared to 913 last year.
For more information, log on to: http://www.scdps.org/
Duke Power has entered into a voluntary agreement with the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control to install additional nitrogen oxide emission controls on its coal-fired Lee Steam Station in Williamston. The controls support the Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson Early Action Compact to reduce smog-forming emissions in Upstate South Carolina.
We are pleased to have come to an agreement with leaders in South Carolinas Department of Health & Environmental Control to further reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at Lee Steam Station, said Ellen Ruff, group vice president of power policy and planning at Duke Power. The new controls are expected to cost about $7.2 million and follow an earlier investment of $6.2 million in 2001 to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at the plant. When the new projects are completed by mid- 2006, we will have reduced nitrogen oxide emissions at Lee Steam Station by 60 percent since 1997.
Duke Powers Lee Steam Station has a generating capacity of 370 megawatts and is the only coal power plant the company operates in South Carolina.
At full capacity the plant can provide electricity to approximately 370,000 homes.
Duke Power will be investing $1.5 billion to reduce nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions at its seven coal plants in North Carolina to comply with the states Clean Smokestacks legislation, which was signed into law in June 2002 with Duke Powers full support.
The partnership between Duke Power, environmental organizations and state regulators and elected officials was honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with its Clean Air Excellence Award in March 2004.
The series of construction projects Duke Power will undertake to comply with the legislation represents the largest capital project in North Carolina over the next decade.
Duke Power, a business unit of Duke Energy, is one of the nations largest electric utilities and provides safe, reliable, competitively priced electricity and value-added products and services to more than 2 million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina. In 2004, Duke Power celebrates 100 years of service.
The company operates three nuclear generating stations, eight coal-fired stations, 31 hydroelectric stations and numerous combustion turbine units. Total system generating capability is approximately 19,900 megawatts. More information about Duke Power is available on the Internet at: http://www.dukepower.com.
Duke Energy is a diversified energy company with a portfolio of natural gas and electric businesses, both regulated and unregulated, and an affiliated real estate company.
Duke Energy supplies, delivers and processes energy for customers in North America and selected international markets.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 500 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available on the Internet at: http://www.dukeenergy.com.
Anderson County Sheriffs deputies investigated the theft of several vehicles across the area. Among incidents investigated:
Dec. 13 - Mike Cantrell, 43, 3127 Earle E. Morris Jr., Hwy., Piedmont, reported a 1996 Chevrolet 1500 Extended cab belonging to Horrace Auto Sales, 205 McAlister Rd., Easley, stolen from the lot. T. A. Caron investigated.
Dec. 13 - Martin Lewis Sift, 46, 113-HH Wedgefield Dr., Piedmont, reported a 1990 Honda Accord valued at $3,000 taken from the location. T. A. Caron investigated.
Dec. 13 - Joshua Christopher McClain, 21, 120 Belview Circle, Pelzer, reported a tow truck hooked to his 1994 Mustang and left the location, returning after about 5 minutes and leaving the vehicle in the front yard. Reports state there was $1,000 in damage done to the front and rear bumper. D. B. Anderson investigated.
Dec. 13 - Faye Bagwell, 68, 911 Cheddar Rd., Belton reported a Commanche .38 handgun valued at $180 taken from the residence. J. A. Burdett investigated.
Dec. 12 - Pascal Yearta, 854D Piedmont Hwy., Piedmont, reported items valued at $305 missing from a storage unit at Stegall Rd., Pelzer. J. Johnson investigated.
Dec. 12 - Robert Lahmann, 24, 608 Bonanza Circle, Piedmont, reported baseball cards valued at $7,500 taken by a man who also cut the top of a 1971 MGB causing $500 in damage and punched a hole in the wall causing $100 in damage after being asked to leave the residence. R. S. Turner investigated.
Dec. 12 - Samuel Paul Campbell, 39, 300 Wilderness Trail, Liberty, reported tools valued at $1,244 taken from a storage unit #52 at Anchor Storage, 7300 Hwy. 8 Pelzer. R. S. Turner investigated.
Dec. 12 - William Joe Tesner, 64, 1801 Camelot Forest, Belton, reported 5 boxes of scrap aluminum stolen from 1110 Orr St., Pelzer. R. S. Turner investigated.
Dec. 11 - Debra Culler, 39, 307 Irby Rd., Piedmont, reported a 2003 Dodge Caravan valued at $23,000 stolen from the residence. Reports state the vehicle was unlocked with keys in the ash tray. J. A. Burdette investigated.
Dec. 11 - Mike White, 60, 600 Robin Hood Ln., Anderson, reported forced entry into a barn located at 501 Martin Rd., Williamston. A 4x8 utility trailer and items valued at $4,000 were taken from the location. J. A. Burdette investigated.
Venesa Thurmond, 41, 112 Mattison St., Williamston, reported someone entered her vehicle and stole a leather jacket and pants valued at $275. R. S. Turner investigated.
Steve D. Childers, Jimmy George, Inc., reported 20 bank checks taken from the company. R. W. Meller investigated.
Dec. 12 - Valarie L. Canada, 37, 102 Browning Rd., Piedmont, reported a 1997 Ford Escort valued at $5,000 taken from the location. The vehicle belonging to Lashon J. Canada, 34, was started and left to warm up when it was taken. J. L. Beraholm investigated.
After more than four years of hashing out legal issues and dealing with delays, West Pelzer officials are considering backing out of a joint agreement with Pelzer to hook onto the Western Carolina sewer system.
The project was supposed to provide answers to ongoing sewer treatment problems facing both towns and would replace the sewer lagoons currently being used.
West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton and Pelzer Mayor Page Henderson met with representatives of Rural Development in June to resolve some remaining legal terminology of the closing papers and were very close to signing the final paperwork, they said.
It is a miracle that the work hasnt begun, Paxton said at the Dec. 13 meeting of West Pelzer Town Council.
At that meeting, Paxton said that recent improvements being made to the West Pelzer sewer treatment lagoons have encouraged her to consider making additional improvements to keep the system in use.
Since the original agreement and grant was approved in 1999-2000, treatment fees being charged by Western Carolina have increased tremendously, according to Paxton.
She said with water infiltration in the sewer lines, the town would be paying triple what it should.
Improvements to the towns current sewer treatment system now look more feasible.
Paxton said she plans to meet with state officials and engineers after the first of the year to look at possible upgrade plans and costs
Paxton has met with DHEC officials several times since taking office to discuss problems found during DHEC inspections.
We have had a 100 percent improvement, Paxton said.
Since her meetings with DHEC officials, the towns sewer facilities have passed recent DHEC inspections. We have done everything they have asked us to do, she said.
According to Paxton, DHEC representatives have indicated that with improvements, the current lagoons would be large enough to handle both the Town of West Pelzer and Town of Pelzers treatment needs if necessary.
Paxton said she believes making improvements to the lagoon and keeping it functional will be better for the town in the long run than paying the higher fees that are expected to be charged by Western Carolina.
Final approval on the joint sewer project has been on hold waiting for USDA Rural Development, according to Paxton.
Driven by Environmental Protection Agency requirements, plans for construction of a sewer line to connect Pelzer and West Pelzer to Western Carolina Sewer began over 10 years ago.
A $1.852 million grant was awarded to the Town of Pelzer in 1999 for the project which will fund 45% of the project. The Town, which is responsible for the balance of the cost, was forced to start collecting funds in advance to assist in paying for the project.
West Pelzer was awarded a $495,000 grant from Rural Development, along with a $441,000 loan to be paid back over 40 years. West Pelzer officials also began collecting fees in anticipation of paying for the project.
Both mayors have said that water and sewer rates will increase and continue to increase every year as a result of the sewer project.