Martin: email complaints, praises mostly bogus

RIDGEWAY – A rancorous Ridgeway Town Council meeting last week was marked by repeated interruptions from Councilwoman Angela Harrison who spent the better part of the meeting chastising other council members for perceived slights, including not sending her every communication that emanated from each council member while she was on an extended summer vacation [July and August], during which she missed three council meetings.

Mayor Heath Cookendorfer informed Harrison that she could have copies of council’s communications upon request and that the town clerk would provide them to her as time permitted.

But Harrison wanted more.

“I want a copy every month of every bank statement for every bank account, including the investment fund,” Harrison fired back. “Under the Freedom of Information Act, I have a right to that.”

Among her string of criticisms, Harrison questioned whether complaints that council received over the last couple of years against former Ridgeway Police Chief Christopher Culp might have been ‘bogus.’ She asked if council had investigated those complaints.

The Voice obtained copies of those complaints from town hall through a Freedom of Information request in June and published many of them last summer. Most could be traced to individuals in the community. Some had brought their complaints before before the public at council meetings.

Councilman Dan Martin said he had looked into an additional group of 41 emails submitted over a very short time, beginning June 19, five days after the June meeting when a motion was made (but not voted on) to terminate Culp, and ending July 26.

Martin said of those 41 emails, 27 praised Culp and 14 criticized two town employees who, he said, had not had a single complaint in their employee files over the more than 10 years that each had been employed by the town government.

“Something smelled fishy,” Martin said.

He said that since the 41 emails contained no phone numbers or addresses for verification he contacted all the writers by return email and invited them to bring their complaints to town hall, Martin said.

‘If you do not respond in seven days,’ the email from town hall stated, ‘your email will be considered null and void.’

“We got one response that stated the writer was too busy to respond,” Martin said.

Martin said he tried to verify the authenticity of the 41 emails.

To find the source of each email, Martin said he went to the server for each email received and requested that the password for that email address be texted to the phone number associated with the email. He said he received the last two digits of each phone number associated with the emails.

”I received the last two digits of the phone numbers associated with 35 of the emails. Nothing came up for the other six,” Martin said.

According to Martin, the results of his investigation, based on the last two digits of the phone numbers pointed to only nine phone numbers being associated with the 35 emails.

He gave the following breakdown of the two digit numbers – 16 phone numbers ended with 35, five ended with 50, four ended with 77, three ended with 29, two ended with 53, two ended with 81, one ended with 90, one ended with 91, and one ended with 96.

Martin said the coincidence of so many phone numbers ending with the same two digits in such a small sample is mathematically unlikely.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Martin said. “As far as I’m concerned, those emails are pretty much all bogus.

“Going forward,” Martin said after the meeting, “we need to ask that when anyone communicates their complaints, compliments or suggestions to the town hall, that they include their names, addresses and phone numbers so that we can get back to them and properly address the issue,” Martin said.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]