Public Shows up at Meeting, Councilman Calls Cops

Kamau Marcharia

Kamau Marcharia

RIDGEWAY (April 15, 2016) – During a special called meeting of Fairfield County Council last week at the Fairfield Commerce Center on Peach Road, Councilman Kamau Marcharia called 9-1-1 when three members of the public showed up for the meeting which was, in fact, open to the public.

Macharia’s call was placed just before 2 p.m., before the April 6 public meeting was called to order and before Council had voted to enter executive session for the purpose of interviewing candidates for the County Administrator’s position.

“We’re holding an executive session,” Marcharia told the 9-1-1 dispatcher, “and folks from the Saving Fairfield County, and, even though we haven’t started in our meeting, (are) asking questions. They have threatened me before. We need an officer down here now!”

Marcharia went on to say, “They’re intervening in the process, even though we haven’t gone into executive session. They’re in there questioning us and demanding information and they need not be here.”

Bob Carrison, who along with Jeff Schaffer and Elizabeth Jenkins had showed up at the meeting, characterized their presence and behavior differently. And none of the Council members who were present when the three arrived reported them being threatening demanding or intervening.

“Obviously that Council member (Marcharia) has a limited understanding of democracy and the Freedom of Information Act,” Jay Bender, a First Amendment attorney in Columbia who represents the S.C. Press Association, said. “If an elected representative is threatened by a citizen’s question on a public matter, that representative doesn’t deserve to hold office.”

Bertha Goins, who lives in Marcharia’s Council district and is running against him in the November elections, agreed and made her feelings known at Monday night’s Council meeting during the public comment time.

“Our community can no longer survive under weak, frivolous, childish nonsense such as using our law enforcement as a scare tactic against the very people you represent,” Goins said in a prepared statement.

Carrison said he asked members of the Council when the three arrived at the Commerce Center if Council had entered executive session.  When Council told him the public meeting had not yet been called to order, Carrison said, “We sat down and told them we were here because we want them to know how important this is to us.

“We talked a little more,” Carrison said. “I would call it a reasonable dialogue. There were no threats. No yelling. Jeff said nothing. Beth said nothing,” Carrison added. Carrison’s “reasonable dialogue” was conducted with Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2).

After Monday night’s regular Council meeting, Robinson similarly characterized the conversation she had with Carrison, calling it “respectful.”

It was during that conversation at the Commerce Center that Marcharia reportedly packed his things together and left, making the 9-1-1 call from the parking lot.

“Kamau came in with Sgt. Mull,” Carrison recalled. “Another deputy arrived as Carrison, Schaffer and Jenkins were leaving, and according to the Sheriff’s report, all three left without incident. In a WIS-TV news story the following day, Jenkins said she left feeling intimidated by the 9-1-1 call. Also in that news segment it was reported that Fairfield County Sheriff Will Montgomery said no one was arrested and that he did not plan to arrest anyone.

Explaining to The Voice on Monday why he called   9-1-1, Marcharia said “I wanted the police there. They were supposed to be there. They were running late. I didn’t want them (the public) to compromise our executive session.”

Meetings of public bodies like the one at the Commerce Center are open to the public, according to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. Provisions of the law allow public bodies to conduct portions of meetings in executive session, out of public view, but not before first calling the public meeting to order and voting openly to enter into the closed session.

Members of the public can be removed from meetings if they are being willfully disruptive; however, both Carrison and Robinson said this was not the case. Councilman Billy Smith (District 7) agreed.

“I did not see a reason that would necessitate 9-1-1 being called,” Smith said Monday.



  1. Mark Polk says

    Wow! Has it really come to this?

  2. Mark Polk says

    Wow! Has it really come to this?

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