Harrison has plans for Pig on the Ridge’s revenue

RIDGEWAY– After Ridgeway Town Administrator David Hudspeth cashed in 10 Pig on the Ridge CDs in January, prior to their maturity, and deposited that cash into the Town’s General Fund, Town Councilwoman Angela Harrison made a motion at the Feb. 26 meeting that could eventually strip the Pig on the Ridge steering committee of its ability to determine to which charities the festival’s proceeds are given in the future.

In addition, an item on the March 8 agenda would, if passed, establish financial procedures for the administration of the POR and other festivals.

The motion came out of an agenda item Harrison asked to have placed on the docket: “Consideration of education grant opportunities for Ridgeway students in District No. 1, Ridgeway.”

These grant opportunities could be funded, Harrison announced, with profits from Pig on the Ridge and other Ridgeway festivals.

“Let’s have a charitable purpose of how we can use it [POR profits.] I’ve looked into what we can do…I’m looking at scholarships and ways to give back to our kids. I think it is really important that we use some of our festival revenues…and put it into an educational grant,” Harrison said.

Before making her motion, “To meet with community and school leaders and partners to develop a budget for an education grant for the whole community,” Harrison unleashed 20 minutes of rapid-fire criticism of the popular barbecue festival that was created 19 years ago by four Ridgeway men: Town Councilman Don Prioleau, former Ridgeway Mayor Rufus Jones, Tom Connor and local Pit Master J. W. Joye. Some years before his death, Joye stepped down and was replaced by Henry Dixon. Prioleau, Jones, Connor and Dixon comprise the POR steering committee and oversee the planning, marketing and management of the festival, the largest barbecue festival in the state for 15 years.  The event is manned by a volunteer army comprised primarily of residents from the community.

Talking rapidly as she handed out multiple rounds of documents to Council members in dramatic fashion, Harrison took the POR organizers to the woodshed before zeroing in on the agenda item that could eventually transfer control of the POR funds from the steering committee to the community/school committee overseeing education grant opportunities.

Harrison first lambasted the POR for its out-of-date filing status with the Secretary of State’s office, saying that POR should be in a category for charitable organizations that take in more than $20,000 in sponsor and vendor fees, which the POR does. In that category, the POR would be required to list revenues, expenses and a statement of its charitable purpose with the Secretary of State, not just the Town government. Instead, the festival’s status remains as it was originally filed with the Secretary of State…as an ‘exempt’ charity that brings in less than $7,500 annually.

“So, the information at the Secretary of State’s office is not correct and we need to have it fixed,” Harrison said.

Harrison presented no proof, however, that the POR steering committee had made any missteps in reporting revenues and expenses to the Town’s auditor or to Town Hall, which, Prioleau said, has always handled the POR funds. Nor was any proof presented that the POR steering committee had mishandled any of the POR funds in any way.

Following the Council meeting, Prioleau told The Voice that the failure to update the Secretary of State filing was an unintentional oversight. According to the Secretary of State’s office, that correction can be made by Town Hall in May when the filing is due to be renewed.

“All this show tonight wasn’t necessary to get a new form filled out,” Prioleau said.

Next, Harrison said she had “recently sat down and traced the expenditures and revenues from the POR festival and realized that it’s not really giving back to our community as much as it could.”

She was critical that some of the profits from each POR festival were held in a CD for use as seed money for the next POR festival. Prioleau said the CDs were also used to make large purchases for the town that would exceed the profits from a single year, such as a town clock.

When Prioleau tried to speak, explaining how ex-Ridgeway Mayor Gene Wilson had helped the POR get organized during its first year and how decisions were made early on to set aside seed money for each successive year’s POR festival, Harrison interrupted him.

“I’m trying to give you the whole picture,” Prioleau explained to Harrison.

“I know the whole picture,” Harrison shot back, with a laugh.

“I listened to you, now…,” Prioleau said before he was again interrupted.

“Ok, the whole picture,” Harrison said.

“After the last POR festival, I passed out checks for $300 each to 21 or 22 churches and Geiger Elementary. We’ve donated a lot of money to the community over the years – over $10,000 to renovate the Century House, over $10,000 for a special piece of fire department equipment that we had to save a couple of years for, money to Hurricane victims and to flood victims through the Red Cross, and more,” Prioleau said. “The money in the CDs is just to be sure we have money for the next festival. Now, if you have questions,” Prioleau said, “you need to come to the table and sit down and see what we need to do, but if we’re going to have the festival year after year, either the Town will have to fund it or…”

“The Town is funding it!” Harrison interrupted again.

As Prioleau tried to talk, Harrison continued to talk over him.

“The Town has been funding it,” Harrison said. “You can’t say the Town has not been funding it. It’s been funded by the Town!”

Prioleau again asked Harrison to let him finish.

“Pig on the Ridge has never been in the red, not even the first year…” Prioleau said before being interrupted again.

“I’m not saying you were,” she said.

“You’re saying the Town is funding Pig on the Ridge,” Cookendorfer interjected and was joined by Prioleau as they emphasized in unison, “but that’s money raised by Pig on the Ridge that the Town is paying out.”

“I totally understand that,” Harrison said, before changing the subject and repeating, again, that the POR was not filed properly with the Secretary of State.

“If you’re saying Pig on the Ridge money is not spent properly…,” Prioleau said.

“You didn’t file it properly, Donald, is all I’m saying,” Harrison said, all the while filming Prioleau and Cookendorfer on Facebook Live with her phone throughout the meeting.

Cookendorfer told Harrison that she was painting only half the picture.

“Really?” Harrison asked with a smile and began talking over Cookendorfer again.

“I am asking to be able to talk without being interrupted,” Cookendorfer said.

“It’s all right here,” Harrison continued, ignoring Cookendorfer’s plea.

“Can you stop interrupting?” Cookendorfer asked.

Mayor Charlene Herring, who had been hesitant to gavel Harrison’s repeated interruptions, instructed Cookendorfer to go ahead and vote on the motion and ask his questions later.

Cookendorfer insisted he should be allowed to ask questions about the paperwork Harrison handed out since she had not shared it prior to the meeting.

Asked later by The Voice if she had spoken to Cookendorfer, Prioleau or the other members of the POR steering committee about the Secretary of State information prior to the meeting, Harrison said she had not.

At Councilman Doug Porter’s suggestion, Herring allowed Cookendorfer to finish asking questions.

Finally, Harrison segued into a several-minute soliloquy, elaborating on her stated motion and her plans for the education grant committee.

The vote on the motion passed 3-2 with Herring, Harrison and Porter voting for and Prioleau and Cookendorfer voting against.


Story updated 3/8/18 at 10:00 to correct Town Council’s meeting date, which is March 8. 

Comments

  1. J. P. Ward says

    The facts in this article are being reported accurately and clearly demonstrate how disrespectful Councilwomen Harrison has been towards her fellow Councilman Prioleau and Councilman Cookendorfer. Attacking the integrity of the POR Committee and the good work it and all the volunteers have accomplished is difficult to understand. This yearly festival has been instrumental in bringing visitors to Ridgeway who desire to be a part of this small town if only for a day, participating in an old Southern tradition. Even the train stops in greeting.
    The work and contributions of the POR in and for Ridgeway have been ongoing for over 15 years benefiting the surrounding community as a whole and its town residents in many ways. Why would Councilwomen Harrison nominate herself to sit on a committee to oversee how the POR funds are used and distributed? Why wasn’t the POR Committee first politely approached and presented the idea of scholarships before grandstanding?
    Councilman Cookendorfer was seeking information as to when it had been determined to cash in all CD’s as he was assured it would not happen until CD’s matured. Councilwomen Harrison waves a paper and states he was supposed to “…read between the lines…” to know cashing in the CD’s had been approved.
    Whatever the reason for such public display, it surely delineates a lack of leadership abilities as well as a lack of common courtesy to others. The citizens of Ridgeway deserve conservative, considerate, and competent leadership.
    That’s my opinion, what’s yours?

  2. Angela Harrison says

    There are several statements in your most recent article that are incorrect.
    1. First, there is nothing in my motion or any statements I made to support your claim that my motion “could eventually strip the POR steering committee of its ability to determine to which charities the festivals proceeds are given in the future.” This is patently incorrect.

    2. Secondly, you stated POR’s “out of date filing status.” As you can see from the email with the Secretary of State below, the form was only filed in 2016 and 2017. I provided you proof the Town has up to date financial information on POR through our yearly audit.

    3. Thirdly, you stated a motion item for the festival ordinance came out of my ed grant motion. This is incorrect as the ordinance came about during a meeting with POR steering committee and David Hudspeth. POR asked for a resolution giving them complete control. This did not protect the Town’s interest. David has tried working with POR to create the ordinance; however, I’m not certain if they responded.
    4. POR is in the Town’s 2017-18 budget. It is incorrect to call their CDs “seed money.” You have a copy of the budget and should know this. They don’t need “seed money” if they get a budget item from the Town, and the Town is liable for any losses they incur.

    Your opinion of “lambasted” and “unleashed criticism” have no place in a true newsworthy article. I stated many times in the meeting and to you on the phone that I think POR has done a great job with their money and meet needs that others can’t meet. I specifically called out individual donations such as memorials and gifts to the churches and stated those should always continue. I am used to your editorializing by now, but you crossed the line when you twist statements of fact.
    Lastly, you omitted the fact that none of the other Council members, with the exception of Donald, had seen a detailed list of the festival revenue, expenditures, and charitable donations. The average person these days would expect a charity of this size to disclose its donations to charities every year. The point which you omitted was that last year, POR gave $8,000 to charity and put $13,000 in CDs for no apparent purpose. You also omitted at the bottom of the article that neither Heath Cookendorfer nor the other Council members were aware those transfers to CDs were counted as expenditures in our audit, not giving us any visibility into the fact that POR has placed over $80,000 in CDs. You also failed to mention the POR committee has been telling people for years that this is the last festival or note that all of their CDs were set to mature by July 2018 no matter the investment date. You should be asking the POR committee what their intentions are for the festival and for spending this money, which has been hidden from our financial reports as no CDs report was ever shared until we hired an administrator to find out what our financial situation is.
    Please correct the inaccuracies listed above in print and online, as you should have corrected last week’s article citing false information of $409,000 in CDs which you know from the document was $529,000.

  3. Frances V. Miles says

    POR and the committee do grand work! Not sure what the “agenda” is for casting suspension or problems on the one truly successful festival around. As for it being said each year is the last,considering the months of preparation and then the level of exhaustion of the committee members during the actual festival, I’d most likely be saying this would be the last one too! If the actual running of the town government aren’t enough for certain candidates and council members,perhaps they should look for something else to occupy their time.
    There seems to be so much controversy at these meetings,maybe we could offer coverage to network or cable tv producers for a reality tv series. There would be money and ratings!

  4. Becky Porter says

    Most of the citizen’s of Ridgeway want, and deserve, factual unbiased reporting of the Town Council meetings by the press. Unfortunately, this reporter, like many in her profession, violate journalistic standards by reporting only one side of the story.
    Council members are elected to serve all the citizen’s of Ridgeway and are accountable for accurate financial reporting in accordance with the laws of SC. The monies are to be used to benefit all the citizens and this responsibility should not be delegated to a few non-elected persons.
    The out-going council has demonstrated their commitment to the Town in the purchase of the Cotton Yard for building a library & much needed restrooms. To have continued to use this space without ownership, is a violation of the laws of SC. They showed great wisdom in hiring an administrator to assist them in assuring that the town’s budget processes are in accordance with current municipal best practice. Proposals, such as the one by Mrs. Harrison, to look at additional avenues for the use of festival monies to benefit children’s education should not threaten any one.

    • Jon P. Ward says

      “…in the purchase of the Cotton Yard for building a library & much needed restrooms…” Perhaps you can answer the question as to when the actual purchase of the Cotton Yard took place? Also, who has already approved design and construction of a library, and restrooms on the property? When will work begin on improvement of the sewer system to facilitate new restrooms and how will expenditure be financed?
      It is agreed “Most of the citizens of Ridgeway want and deserve…” to know the facts and to be allowed to have a voice via public forums. It seems, however, that some of the current Town Council members have already decided and voted on projects for which the citizens will be paying.
      The history of the “Cotton Yard” dates back to 1846, when James B. Coleman deeded a right-of-way on his property for the building of the railroad. The deed does not mention any compensation to Mr. Coleman. The next recorded document pertaining to this same piece of property is dated Sept. 13, 1949, a blueprint drawing (A-10460) giving measurements of this same property. Then in Nov. 1949, the Southern Railroad Co. entered into an agreement (Bk. CF, pg 438) with Ridgeway, plainly stating specific covenants regarding the building of a police station and fire station (old one bay). The Town Council Resolution passed on June 22, 1949, asking RR to :”…grant said town permission to erect on its property (RR)… a Fire Engine House…agreeing that same would be used for no purpose other than a Fire Engine House. ”
      No further records of agreement, purchase, or sale were found at the Register of Deeds Office in Winnsboro. If you have access to documents not available to the public regarding the Cotton Yard, the citizens of Ridgeway would certainly like you to provide them for preview.

  5. Randy Bright says

    Harrison clealy articualated her designs on POR profits with these statements:
    “Consideration of education grant opportunities for Ridgeway students in District No. 1, Ridgeway.”
    These grant opportunities could be funded, Harrison announced, with profits from Pig on the Ridge and other Ridgeway festivals.” Let’s have a charitable purpose of how we can use it [POR profits.] I’ve looked into what we can do…I’m looking at scholarships and ways to give back to our kids. I think it is really important that we use some of our festival revenues…and put it into an educational grant,”

Speak Your Mind

*