All media questions for Ridgeway now go to mayor

RIDGEWAY – With Ridgeway Town elections coming up in April and filing closing at noon last Friday, The Voice called Ridgeway Town Clerk Vivian Case on Friday afternoon to find out who had signed up to run for office.

Case told The Voice that she could not provide that information.

“I’m no longer allowed to talk to the media,” Case told The Voice. “All media questions must now go to the mayor,” she said.

The Voice called Ridgeway Mayor Heath Cookendorfer.

“She’s ridiculous,” he said. “She can tell you. I don’t know why she’s saying she can’t tell you that.”

Less than an hour later, however, Cookendorfer called back to say that Case was correct, that all questions from the media, including questions asking for the names of candidates filling for election, would need to go to the mayor.

Unraveling Town Policy

After initially saying that it was ‘ridiculous’ for Case to say she could not answer questions from the media, Cookendorfer said he would run it by council.

“Let me confer with council. I don’t want to say anything without council saying yes or no. So, I’ll bring it up at the next council meeting, that if the press asks a question as general as ‘who’s running for election,’ is that something we (council) need to have her contact council prior to speaking to the media?”

Asked by The Voice to define a ‘general,’ question, Cookendorfer said he would have council define it.

While the next council meeting was not scheduled until Thursday, Feb. 10, Cookendorfer called The Voice back after only a few minutes with clarification.

“I talked to one of the council members,” Cookendorfer said, “and we talked about something they brought back to light.” He clarified: “For any questions about the Town of Ridgeway, [the media] has to call the mayor,” he said.

“For any question?” The Voice reporter asked.

“Anything!” Cookendorfer answered, contradicting his earlier statement that she (Case) could answer questions from the media concerning who is signed up to run in the upcoming Town election.

“Basically, it says that, ‘All media relations and public statements regarding the Town of Ridgeway should come from the mayor,’” Cookendorfer said.

“Where does it say that,” The Voice reporter asked.

“In a document that we have,” Cookendorfer answered, not specifying whether it was Town policy, Town statute or something else.

“Can I get a copy of it?” the reporter asked.  Cookendorfer changed the subject.

“So, if the media has any questions concerning the Town of Ridgway or about how things are going, like who’s running for election, you would have to go to the mayor for an answer,” Cookendorfer said.  He added that the press would also have to give him at least 24 hours to answer the question.

“I’m going to [need that time] to ask council and then maybe speak with her (Case) to get the answer,” Cookendorfer said. “Some things may require a little bit more tact and understanding of the answer.”

A Late Agenda

When asked why the agenda for the Town Council’s Jan. 20 meeting was late, Cookendorfer placed the blame on Case, saying he had approved the agenda and did not know why Case had not sent it out on time.

The agenda was emailed to The Voice at 11:49 a.m. on the day of the meeting, barely 6-1/2 hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin.

According to Sec. 30-4-80 of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, ‘An agenda for regularly scheduled or special meetings must be posted on a bulletin board in a publicly accessible place at the office or meeting place of the public body and on a public website maintained by the body, if any, at least twenty-four hours prior to such meetings. All public bodies must post on such bulletin board or website, if any, public notice for any called, special, or rescheduled meetings. Such notice must include the agenda, date, time, and place of the meeting, and must be posted as early as is practicable but not later than twenty-four hours before the meeting.’

Councilman Rufus Jones told The Voice on Tuesday that when he had not received the agenda on the morning of the meeting, that he called Cookendorfer and learned that Cookendorfer had not yet approved the agenda. That approval, Jones said, was received via email at town hall around 11 a.m. less that the 24 hours required by law for the agenda to be posted.

The next scheduled meeting for the Ridgeway Town Council is Thursday, Feb. 10, at the Century House in Ridgeway.

Comments

  1. Why should the Mayor be the bottleneck? It’s called stalling. Circling the wagons. Control. Dictatorship? Media shutdown? For a simple answer to a simple question like, “Who has filed to run for office?”
    There must be something in the water around here. Richland School District Two Trustees must go through the Superintendent (bottleneck) with all requests for information. So the $244,000/year superintendent becomes a “traffic cop”. He even whined at the last meeting about a Food Lion parking lot issue, where drivers are using private property as a student drop-off and pick-up point. Why would that question EVER get to his desk? A good leader trusts and delegates. Did he miss that class?
    Same for the Ridgeway Mayor.

  2. Angela Harrison says

    It seems to me in a Council form of government, any Council person should have the right to speak with media. There are too many phone discussions with Council and not enough put public. However, this does appear to be pot stirring by 3 parties because Jones and Cookendorfer are running against each other for Mayor, neither of which is good for our town.

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