Bell, Pauley spar over budget, agenda and stamp machine

Fairfield County Councilman Doug Pauley, left, holds up a personal Christmas card from Council Chairman Moses Bell, displaying the county’s postage machine stamp. | Fairfield County Council YouTube

WINNSBORO – Hardly a meeting passes without some back and forth between Fairfield County Council Chairman Moses Bell and Councilman Doug Pauley.

But Monday night’s meeting was especially contentious, with the two council members sparing over county policy, budgetary matters and public comment policies.

Things got off to a rocky start during discussion of how to reallocate $500,000 in federal stimulus money awarded to Fairfield County.

Pauley accused Bell of micromanaging budgetary decisions.

Specifically, Pauley said Bell first sought to use stimulus money to provide bonuses to election poll workers, against the advice of legal counsel.

Bell later directed the county administrator to take money from the county budget for the bonuses, Pauley added.

“Council was never advised whether or not poll watchers received any money,” Pauley said. “Mr. Bell cannot do that.”

Bell denied any impropriety. He said the purpose of the ordinance was to ensure stimulus “money is accurately accounted for,” claiming funds had not been spent without council’s knowledge or authorization.

“This is to make sure the books are corrected in a way that it can pass the order to test,” Bell said.

Later, Pauley accused Bell of inappropriately using the county’s stamp machine to send personal Christmas cards.

Calling such use of the stamp machine illegal, Pauley called for an investigation.

“A council member, or maybe some others, have sent personal mail through the county stamp machine,” Pauley said. “I don’t think that’s legal. I think the county stamp machine needs to be looked at so to see if there’s a way it can be coded to certain departments.”

While Pauley didn’t mention Bell specifically by name, Bell immediately chimed in to defend himself. Bell said other political figures sent Christmas cards to council members and that on behalf of the council he was merely responding in kind.

“Trying to bridge relationships, I said let’s send people Christmas cards,” he said. “The sheriff sent us Christmas cards. The Council on Aging sent us Christmas cards. All these departments sent us Christmas cards.”

The sheriff, however, delivered his cards by hand.

Pauley refuted Bell’s claim. Holding a copy of one of the cards, Pauley said, “This card was sent by Moses Bell. Now that it is election season, we need to make sure council members are not sending personal mail through the county stamp machine.”

County Administrator Malik Whitaker said the county is in a midst of performing a comprehensive review of all county policies.

“That [the stamp machine] is not addressed in our policies,” Whitaker said. “There are a lot of policies that need to be improved in this county.”

State ethics statute section 8-13-700 states that “no public official, public member or public employee may knowingly use his official office or employment to obtain an economic interest for himself…”

Toward the end of the meeting, Pauley called upon Bell to reinstate the second public comment session, which used to be at the end of the agenda. It was discontinued prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilman Mikel Trapp asked Whitaker to consult with the S.C. Association of Counties to determine how many other councils include two public comment sections.

During county council time, Bell read a lengthy prepared statement with familiar bullet points, boasting about growth in parks and recreation while attacking budgetary practices of prior councils as well as what he called the “disastrous” Mt. Zion contract.

Comments

  1. susan lathan says

    I think Fortune Park uptown should be put back the way it was . Why would you spend money on updating it to take away the fountain. As for Mt.Zion school ,tear it down all put the front like Ridgeway school.Don’t put anymore money in that project. I send cards a lot but I pay for mine.

  2. T. Loges says

    We should be glad to have counsel members that look out for its citizens. If Mr. Bell and others use services that they should not then it needs to be looked into. If wrong doing is going on no matter what it is. Because nothing is trivial when it comes to tax payers money being spent responsibly.

  3. Angela Connor says

    As a point of clarity to this story, the Council on Aging did not send, either by mail or hand-delivery, Christmas cards to any entities this year and it is unclear why our agency was mentioned as having done so. – Angela Connor, FCCOA Executive Director.

  4. Jeff Schaffer says

    Someone has to have their finger pointed …and it was simply a matter of your dept or Mr. Bell taking responsibility for his unethical, immoral behavior or, should I just say he’s a thief.
    Jeff Schaffer

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