Douglas accuses Bell of leaking information

Ginyard Wants Economic Development Info Made Public

WINNSBORO – During the second public comment segment at the end of Monday night’s county council meeting, Jenkinsville Mayor Gregory Ginyard stunned council members when he came to the microphone to disclose what he said is a rumor that council is considering an economic development project in the Jenkinsville area and that it has kept that information secret for eight months.

Jenkinsville mayor Greg Ginyard

Council has been voting on a flurry of economic development projects recently and, at least one of those companies, perhaps more, has required council members to sign a legally binding nondisclosure agreement, Chairman Neil Robinson said Monday night prior to Ginyard’s comments. Such an agreement prohibits council members from making any aspect of the negotiations public or leaking information about the project prior to it being finalized.

As Ginyard began to reveal details of an economic development project that he said had heretofore not been disclosed by council members, Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas turned toward fellow Councilman Moses Bell and pointed his finger at Bell.

“You told him,” Douglas said to Bell.

Bell visibly pushed back against Douglas’ accusation.

Ginyard continued.

 “Over at V.C Summer’s nuclear station, there’s an understanding that [a company] is planning to put a gas plant over there,” Ginyard said. “This is rumor. People are asking me about it so I’m here to ask you about it. We hear it’s supposed to create some jobs and a larger tax base, but we’re sitting on a nuclear plant, and to have a gas plant next door is something we feel we should have some input on,” he continued.

Councilman Moses Bell

 “Is it true?” he asked. “You’ve had a couple of readings [votes], but it hasn’t come out. Third reading will finalize it without the community knowing anything about it.”

No one on council responded to Ginyard or to Tangee Brice Jacobs or former county employee Jackie Workman, both of whom followed Ginyard to the podium with their own questions on the same subject.

While nothing more was said during the meeting, at the end, during council time, Bell took the opportunity to defend himself in the flap.

“I guess it was about two months ago that I raised some concerns about giving out information when you’re in negotiations, how people get information,” Bell said. “People get information even if it is false. It’s a danger, especially when you’re in negotiations with business. If we’re doing that, we need to stop it now,” he said.

Under the South Carolina Freedom of Information law, governments are allowed to keep certain information and negotiations private about economic development projects until an offer to attract an industry or business to invest or locate in the offeror’s jurisdiction is accepted by the industry or business to whom the offer was made.  Once the contract is signed and the incentive agreement is finalized, that information is public information.

Asked about Ginyard’s comments, County Administrator Jason Taylor would not confirm or deny Ginyard’s speculations. He said he could not comment on any economic development project until it is finalized and made public.

“Having a non-disclosure agreement is a very common practice associated with economic development, especially with larger projects,” Taylor said. “A lot of the information is proprietary. It’s their company information. Leaked information could hurt their stock prices in some cases. It can be detrimental with their competition. Those kinds of things.”

In other economic development business, council voted to pass first reading on an ordinance authorizing Fairfield County to purchase at least 50 acres not costing more than $300,000 to be used for a wastewater treatment site.

Following executive session, council voted to pass third reading on two ordinances, one authorizing a fee agreement with New Nightingale, LLC and another authorizing a fee agreement with Mekra Lang North America, LLC for expansion of its facility on Cook Road.