Lack of transparency still dogs JWC

JENKINSVILLE – Transparency complaints continue to muddy the waters of the Jenkinsville Water Company.

Continuing a dispute that arose during the JWC’s meeting in April, several members of the public contested a murky vote taken by the board last month.

“When you vote on items, when you don’t tell us what it is, we as a member of the company have a right to know what those items are,” Donald Melton with the Broad River Campground, who is in litigation with the JWC, said during public comments Monday.

Specifically, Melton took issue with a series of votes the JWC conducted during the April meeting.

After a lengthy executive session, the board voted merely to accept “Item A,” “Item B” and “Item C” without specifying what those items involved.

“The board cannot vote on just a name and a number. Will that be different tonight and here on out?” Melton asked.

Board members remained mainly silent, responding only to say they couldn’t and wouldn’t respond to questions posed in public input.

“We’re not going to go back and forth in meetings like that. We’ve told you that before,” Greg Ginyard, president of the JWC, stated.

Melton took the entire three minutes allotted in public input, even though he spoke for roughly half that time.

Ginyard did respond to Jeff Schaffer, another member of the public, who also criticized what he characterized as a lack of transparency.

“Is it the new policy not to answer questions a member asks? Is there a policy for that?” Schaffer asked.

“No sir, I’m giving you this because you haven’t been here in a while, but we’re not taking time to go back and forth between the board,” Ginyard said.

Ginyard went on to say that numerous government bodies don’t respond to questions. He directed anyone desiring a response to submit written questions to the board.

The Voice newspaper also addressed the board, cautioning members that JWC votes could be legally overturned when they’re conducted during meetings in which violations of the state’s Freedom of Information Act occur.

In 1991, the S.C. Supreme Court upheld the invalidation of a Sumter County business license tax ordinance because the ordinance was passed following improper executive sessions, according to Supreme Court records.

During an interview with The Voice following Monday’s meeting, Ginyard said he doesn’t think the water company is subject to FOIA.

“We don’t feel that we are a governmental body,” he said.

Ginyard didn’t respond to follow-up questions referencing a 2011 attorney general opinion classifying the JWC is a public body, and promptly left the building.

That opinion stated the JWC was chartered in 1970 through a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan.

The opinion also stated that through the years, the JWC has received government funding totaling at least $200,000 from the S.C. Budget and Control Board, as well as additional funding from Fairfield County Council.

The council later threatened to cut off funding, citing transparency issues. Specifically, the county demanded copies of audits and federal tax records, the attorney general opinion stated.

“Unfortunately, until you are able to provide the County with this information, the County will not be able to consider any funding requests from your organization; will discontinue and County funding to your organization; plus, will not be able to act as a pass-through for you on any grants or loans from any other governmental or charitable organizations,” the county stated in a letter cited in the attorney general opinion.

Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association and expert on the FOIA, agreed with the attorney general’s opinion.

“This organization (JWC) does not understand it is a public body and it is obligated to follow the law,” Bender said. “If it wants to act privately, what it does is give the money back. Don’t take public money if you want to act like a private corporation.”

 

Comments

  1. Lol you have to realize that he is above the law.

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