Bell criticized for agenda faux pas

WINNSBORO – Audio glitches and continued issues of transparency marred an otherwise brisk Fairfield County Council meeting Monday night.

In a series of votes, council members passed first reading of several ordinances with several glaring information gaps.

Four ordinances related to economic development, including one that appropriated $500,000 to the county’s economic development department.

A fifth ordinance involved an unspecified amendment to $1,573,000 in federal stimulus money the council appropriated in October 2021. The ordinance does not further explain the amendment or why it is needed.

Normally council members approve first readings of ordinances by title only. But it’s unusual for the written draft ordinances to not include more information.

On Monday night, several residents voiced frustration over council’s lack of transparency, though microphone malfunctions made it difficult if not impossible for viewers to hear via the county’s live stream.

Speaking during public comment time, John Jones repeated previous complaints that agenda items are often vague and written in legalese, making it nearly impossible for the public to decipher.

“When you write this stuff down, the common man cannot understand it,” Jones said. “Repeatedly we’ve asked for one sentence to accompany the ordinance that explains what it is.”

Case in point: one of the economic development ordinances grants, “a right of first refusal on the sale of a certain parcel shown as Parcel 3 on the Master Plan for the Fairfield Commerce Center.”

Another ordinance approves “the termination of the declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions for the Fairfield Commerce Center as to certain parcels shown as Parcels 10 & 11 on the Master Development Plan subject to the approval of the other occupants of Fairfield Commerce Center.”

Neither ordinance identified the location of the parcels, nor is the commerce center “occupant” identified.

“When you come up with this stuff, no doubt you have a lawyer in the room that says this means that, and that means this,” Jones said. “We do not have that luxury.”

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright also raised transparency issues. He said the public deserves to know the rationale behind proposed ordinances, including any changes made to those ordinances.

“A big waste is ordinances that don’t have any description,” Bright said. “All they do is confuse the public, and hide what you guys are doing. Secrecy is no way to run a government.”

Further confusion arose over zoning and land lease ordinances.

Council members voted on a measure to rezone property from R-1, single family residential, to RD-1, rural residential district, without specifying the size or location of the proposed rezoning on the agenda.

A copy of the ordinance clarified the ordinance would rezone 5.68 acres of wooded undeveloped property adjacent to a property owner’s existing 59.89 acres. The land is located off Paradise Drive in Blair, according to Fairfield County land records.

Council Chairman Moses Bell initially told The Voice that the property information was on the agenda.

When The Voice noted that the information was missing, Bell stated it was included in the council’s agenda packet, which isn’t readily available to the public.

Bell later apologized and said “it would not happen in the future” when The Voice raised transparency concerns.

Another ordinance had to be pulled from the agenda altogether after a councilman noted that it was incomplete and lacked specific information necessary to its passage.

An ordinance to approve a property lease between Dominion Energy and the county for a public recreation area was incomplete. It lacked any description despite the fact that it is second reading.

“We need to see the proposed lease agreement with Dominion on the property,” Councilman Doug Pauley said in a group email with council members. “It’s hard to vote on a lease agreement when you haven’t seen it. If this is second reading why does it not show the full ordinance and only show title only?” Pauley asked

“You are absolutely right,” Bell responded, “Since the ordinance is not complete it will come off the agenda. 


  1. jeff schaffer says

    Bell is a man in a position that is way over his head. We need qualified proven leaders He has only proven he is in it for his own fame and glory. Sad times for us fairfieldians.
    on top of which, This is a position for public speaking have you ever heard a sentence that did not include a dozen UMs and Ah. It’s a difficult position to be in when even reading prepared statements his ability to speak English properly without mumbling and jumbling over words and thoughts. WRONG MAN, WRONG JOB!

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