Council Takes Jab at Media

WINNSBORO (Jan. 15, 2016) – During County Council’s annual retreat held Saturday in Richland County, Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) had harsh words for the media, saying it was spreading misinformation to the public about the County and not letting people know what Council is doing.

Ironically, Kinley did not mention that the County did not give notice or information about the retreat to the media or the public until just before 5 p.m. on Thursday, less than two days before the start of the meeting, but still within public notice requirements. The retreat was held at the Midlands Technical College (MTC) off Farrow Road for the second consecutive year.

While Council Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) told The Voice last week that there was no charge for the facility, sources on Council confirmed that the County paid $1,500 to a facilitator for the meeting even though Interim County Administrator Milton Pope ended up conducting the meeting.

Specifically, Kinley called for hiring a County Public Information Officer to combat what she called “misinformation that goes out (in the media).”

“There’s so much of it out there,” she said. “We need to put the word out there with our own spin about what we’ve done. I think we need to have something coming from our organization to the public. We need the information to come from one source – the County. That (public information) person could come and talk with each one of us to see how he/she could help us in our districts. That’s a caring touch we need to have right now with what the County has going on.”

Kinley gave as an example “misinformation put out against the pellet plant,” but gave no specifics.

“It takes a lot of time to get the details out there. And, to me, that would be the details of information for what we need to get out there,” she said.

Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) agreed.

“Over the last two years, Council has constantly been under attack for not giving out information. Intentional misinformation is put out there. We need a professional person to give the public accurate information and do it with our right decision. We don’t even respond to attacks on Council,” Marcharia said.

Councilman Walter Larry Stewart (District 3) questioned the value and expense of creating such a position. District 7 Councilman Billy Smith agreed, saying he could not support hiring someone for that position.

“We have different views and opinions (on Council), so we might have someone putting something out that some of us don’t agree with,” Smith said. “Sometimes misinformation is a perception. It may not be misinformation at all. I think we need to tread lightly here.”

Kinley then backtracked, taking a different tack.

“The (public information) person could work with administration to let the public know what services are available in the County, where they could go to get information,” she said.

“Don’t we have someone who answers the County phones who could put callers in touch with the services they’re seeking?” Smith asked.

Both Kinley and Robinson shook their heads ‘no.’

“With more employees per capita than any other county, I find it hard to believe we don’t have at least one person who can help direct callers,” Smith said.