2017-12-08 / News

Confusion consumes Richland County Council meeting

By Mike Cox

Journalism students from USC were on hand at the December 5 Richland County Council meeting to witness first hand how local government works. They were identified and asked to stand for recognition.

Within ten minutes, the council retired to executive session for an hour and a half. Most of the students fled before the council reconvened. Probably a good thing.

The council got hung up on a request from the Board of Voter Registration and Elections, which had asked the council to pay some overdue legal bills incurred during the 2012 fiasco that made several local attorneys wealthy.

During the report from the Administration and Finance Committee, Greg Pearce reported that the Election Board had requested the council repeal an ordinance that directs the Election Board on how it can spend county funds. Pearce said after discussing the ordinance the A&F committee decided to bring the request to the council with the recommendation to leave it as is.

The opinion of the A&F committee was the Election Board is governed by the state and can spend budgetary funds any way they wish, including paying delinquent legal bills.

Bill Malinowski made a secondary motion to refer to a state statute that gives the Attorney General the responsibility to direct how election boards spend their money.

Dahli Myers said state law should override county law in any case and maybe there was really no reason to act at all on this matter. Norman Jackson agreed with that position, but Jim Manning wondered why the item was before the council, forgetting it was part of the A&F report. He proposed the request be sent,“back where it came from,” which not only required a vote but further confused the council.

After more discussion, Seth Rose requested the opportunity to ask the Election Board Chair a question. After Rose’s question was answered, the council was even more confused.

It seems the new Election Board chair only wanted to pay some legal bills, so he can get representation for future issues. He was told by the county the state had jurisdiction, and the state told him the county did. At that point the item was deferred. Pearce promised to have things resolved by next week’s meeting.

A simple vote to add three new Richland Memorial Hospital Board members brought even more confusion. Five people volunteered for three spots. The Rules and Appointments Committee interviewed all five applicants and suggested three appointees.

Several council members had issues with one of the three and wanted a different choice. This meant a vote on each volunteer, using the newly installed electronic voting system for something this complicated for the first time.

After several missteps, a few lost tempers, numerous gavel hammerings for order, and at least two council members who refused to vote electronically any further, the council decided to use hands like the Old Days. This proved as confusing.

In the end, three new members were chosen: Cynthia “Cindy” Ottone, Ronald Scott, and Maryanne Warner Belser. Not sure if this is final until the electronic votes are verified. (I’ll keep you posted).

During a Public Hearing for a 1.5 billion dollar bond proposal by the South Carolina Jobs-Economic Development Authority, Jim Carpenter, a Greenville attorney, told the council this was a power grab by a health care organization to eliminate control of the hospitals involved by elected officials and asked the council to table the item until a court case filed by opponents could be resolved. The council chose to pass the item unanimously instead.

Council Chair Joyce Dickerson, Vice Chair Bill Malinowski, Calvin “Chip” Jackson, Norman Jackson, Gwendolyn Kennedy, Paul Livingston, Jim Manning, Yvonne McBride, Dalhi Myers, Greg Pearce, and Seth Rose were present.

More detailed information as well as complete agendas and minutes from past meetings can be found at the Richland County website: www.rcgov.us.

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