Blythewood’s response to FOIA is late, largely unrelated

BLYTHEWOOD – Three days after MPA Strategies filed a lawsuit against the Town to obtain overdue responsive documents sought from Mayor Bryan Franklin through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on April 15, the Town’s outside attorney released those documents on Friday, July 9.

The attorney, David Black, with Nexsen Pruet law firm in Columbia, also released Franklin’s and the other council members’ overdue responsive documents to The Voice the same day. While MPA only requested documents from the mayor, the Country Chronicle requested documents from both the mayor and the four other council members (Eddie Baughman, Donald Brock, Larry Griffin and Sloan Griffin.)

The Voice requested only those documents that both MPA and the Country Chronicle requested.

While the FOIA requests made to the town were only for documents pertaining to MPA, the 1,886 dump of documents sent by Black to The Voice include hundreds of other documents that do not pertain to the FOIA request and that were not requested. Those documents include duplications, blank pages with logos and random emails about town events such as the Christmas parade and a shredding event at Blythewood High School. The documents were also not organized in chronological or any other kind of order, making it time consuming and otherwise difficult to sort, manage, save and read them. They were also sent in a manner that they have to be opened individually. This requires unnecessary time to view documents that were not requested, that are blank or coded.

Of the first 202 documents opened so far, 70 are emails between the town and the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce regarding the chamber’s regular breakfast meetings, winter gala and other general information not germane to the FOIA request; 16, so far, are blank pages displaying only a logo; 26 contain coded information that is not discernable; 40 concern random town events unrelated to MPA; 18 are unrelated agendas for various town board and committee meetings not requested.

Only 32 of the 202 emails opened pertain to MPA and 6 of those are duplicates.

In addition to the 202 documents reviewed by The Voice, a random check through the remaining 1,684 documents disclosed 19 text exchanges made last December between Williamson and Ashley Hunter, owner and CEO of MPA Strategies, that were not requested. The texts were from Williamson’s and Hunter’s personal cell phones, beginning Dec. 2, 2020 and ending about Dec. 16, 2020, before either was hired by the town, but during the hiring process. Williamson and Hunter both worked for the Town of Cayce prior to being hired by Blythewood. Hunter still works for Cayce in a marketing/grant writing capacity.

Since Williamson’s documents were not FOI’d by either MPA or the Country Chronicle, and Hunter is a private citizen not subject to the FOIA, The Voice asked Williamson how his unrequested personal texts ended up in the responsive documents.

Williamson said a town official asked him to turn them over. Notations on the 19 texts reveal they were sent from Williamson to Town Attorney Shannon Burnett.

While Franklin has maintained publicly and in the Country Chronicle on several occasions that he submitted his FOIA responses to MPA’s request on time, Hunter, when questioned by The Voice, said neither she nor her attorney Joseph Dickey had received any responsive documents from Franklin prior to July 9, 2021.  According to state law, those documents were overdue as of May 24, 2021.

After The Voice has reviewed all the FOI’d documents they will be displayed on The Voice’s website for public viewing.


  1. Verdict Pending says

    Where are the uploads?

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