Councilman airs frustrations over newspaper’s report on council’s, administrator’s handling of contract

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The following transcript (in its entirety) was delivered by Town Councilman Jeffery Branham to Town Council Monday and later that evening e-mailed to The Voice for publication. It is in response to The Voice reporting on: 1) Mr. Branham’s failure to properly recuse himself (according to state ethics rules for government officials) when council recently voted to give Mr. Branham’s father a $25,000 contract to clean up the railroad right of way in; 2) Mr. Branham’s, the town administrator’s and the council’s failure to disclose that the bidder was Mr. Branham’s father;  3) that, of the three bids voted on at that meeting, the bid awarded Mr. Branham’s father was the only one for which specific amounts and names of the losing bidders were not disclosed and 4) the great disparity in the bid range. The following letter was copied and not retyped or edited.

My apologies to the Council, Mayor, and citizens of Blythewood for not writing a letter to the Mayor about my recusal at a recently special called meeting. I reviewed my Municipality Handbook and learned the err of my ways and will do better in the future.

• As a professional I am called upon to write reports. These reports are released to management and the leaders of the R&D group and are used to guide the direction of the company based on performance of products during testing. I base these reports off of facts and at times I am called upon for my opinion. I have learned that my opinion is often times not a good conclusion, because I don’t have all the facts. My point is this: If I don’t have all the facts I don’t share my opinion because it leaves me open to be discredited in the future. Although, in my reports I am not selling blocks of advertising, so I also realize that making assumptions or conclusions without all the facts is of no benefit. After all, I am not trying to sell my reports. I also do not share my opinion in my reports because when opinion is inserted it loses the integrity of being called a report. This is what I call an editorial. A report shares facts and does not include bias. If I don’t have the facts I ask for them.

• As I have said before, I did not know anything of the bids that were being taken on the RR project. That is why the Town has a Town Administrator. Mr. Perry knew of the potential issue, and asked a landscape architect to write the bid description and review the bids individually with each bidder. The Architect made his recommendation to Mr. Perry, who, in turn made the recommendation to Council. We received three bids from people that I know have worked for the town before. Two of the bids were from companies that are currently working for the town. I learned years ago to stick to the business that I am in and not cast stones on business that I don’t understand or know anything about. I spent my high school and college years in the landscaping/clearing and grading business. After having worked for several both in the private and government sectors I learned the bidding process. My experience is that smaller businesses typically have the better price on project bids.

• When you work regularly with a company it is not out of the ordinary for them to be contacted directly about upcoming projects. If you are looking to buy tires and you shop around at four places and Pope-Davis in Blythewood has the best price do you believe them, or do you call everyone back again and ask them to give you the price again? Common sense doesn’t say get new quotes – common sense would tell you that you are getting a great price for the work. Say you buy tires at Pope-Davis in Blythewood and have a good experience, the price is cheap and the tires last a long time, are you going to consider them the next time you buy tires? Of course you will! They are local, they do good work, and you are satisfied. I learned to grade people on their work. That is the job of the town citizens. If work is done and it isn’t satisfactory to the citizens, then the council and mayor should know about it.

• RABCO is a company that is owned by my father. In the summer of 2010 Billy Raines was required to undergo surgery and was unable to perform his duties with the town for the period of several months. RABCO was hired then to maintain the grounds in the town and including the grounds around the building we are sitting in. The point being RABCO has been employed by the town before Jeff Branham, Town Councilman, even came into the political spectrum. For the record it is not appreciated that RABCO or Richard Branham is made in to bait to sell newspapers. Richard Branham served this community tirelessly as the fire chief here before the new fire station was built. He and his firemen were the only people that protected this town for many years before Richland County built a station here. They did it because they cared for their community and knew that somebody had to step up and protect it as it related to fire protection. Blythewood was selected as the site for Dixie Youth All-Stars baseball in the mid 90’s. The fields were beautiful and in pristine condition. Few people know that this was because Richard Branham spent his time and money from his pocket to fertilize the fields and make sure they received the care needed so that people visiting Blythewood would receive a positive impression of our community. One spectator was heard to say, “man this looks like a professional field.” USC Football coach Brad Scott had a son playing in the tournament and was there to watch. He found out that Richard had been maintaining the fields and pulled him to the side and inquired as to whether he would be interested in working for the University. He politely replied that he was happy with his company and the time that it allowed him to spend in his community and more importantly – his family. If there are any issues with dealings to do with Jeff Branham, Town Councilman I am available, there is no need to tarnish the reputation of a devoted servant of this town with non-existent conspiracies.

• As for doing anything wrong or illegal- you can dig to the People’s Republic and not find anything illegal, immoral, or unethical with any of my dealings, including the RR bid deal. Or should I say the artist formerly known as the People’s Republic can dig to wherever they want and find nothing. It should be an easy dig- after all, digging where there’s no dirt sounds simple. It may be hard to believe, but there are good • people in government with good intentions to help their communities and protect the freedoms that we all enjoy as Americans. I do not think that anyone in this country that has given the ultimate sacrifice would appreciate those that work hard to do what is right in government being demeaned and put down publicly due to personal bias and personal gain.

• The entire council received an email today with the bid amounts and they are as follows:

• Southern Vitas – $90,215.68

• RABCO – $24,735.00

• Keeler Landscape – $133,883.00

• Conder Construction – $45,200.00

• If you want to know what the bids are just ask. They are public knowledge. Calling for the town to release the bids at once is deceiving and leads town citizens to believe that something that is public knowledge is being hidden. Some people call it being careful with the truth, I call it a lie. Just because you fail to ask for it does not mean that the town is hiding anything.

• The good news is if a slow news week comes where there are no possible ethical or legal challenges to talk about from the local elected officials- you can always run that article about how the moon landings were a scam.

• As a well know radio host says, “Now you know, the rest of the story.”