Greene waffles on council transparency

WINNSBORO – According to reports from the S.C. Comptroller General, the state continues to withhold funding amid delays in the county completing its annual audit. The amount being withheld reportedly stands at about $700,000.

County Administrator Malik Whitaker called it a “mini-crisis” in emails obtained by The Voice in February.

“We have a mini-crisis situation with our audits being 6 months behind,” Whitaker wrote. “Our team is committed to getting us through this situation with lessons learned so this will not happen again. Your patience is appreciated. I will keep your [sic] posted.”

On Monday night, Whitaker said the county has since submitted its financials to Elliott Davis, the county’s auditing firm, for review. He implied no action had been taken on the audit since April 2021.

“This process began in April. I came on Dec. 2,” Whitaker said. “You can see the things that were happening or didn’t happen, but we’re on top of it now.”

Councilman Douglas Pauley pushed back against Whitaker’s comments about the timeline, saying that action was taken in June. He said former County Administrator Jason Taylor signed a letter of engagement from Elliott Davis, the county’s auditor, days before leaving his post.

Taylor officially resigned June 7 and is now Town Manager in Winnsboro. The county administrator post was filled by an interim administrator and two part time assistants until Whitaker was hired.

As County Council scrambled for months trying to hire five candidates for the administrator’s position, Pauley said Elliott Davis went through some personnel changes as well.

“[Elliott Davis] didn’t have any kind of documentation or anything from June until November to tell what happened during that time,” Pauley said regarding the audit.

This annoyed Councilwoman Shirley Greene, who chided Pauley for her belief that he overstepped by talking directly to Elliot Davis.

“Was that a proper way that county council members should act in terms of going to an auditor when we try to get an unbiased opinion?” Greene asked.

“I think we have the right to call the auditor to find out what’s going on,” Pauley replied.

“I would think that we need to look at some codes as to what our responsibilities are,” Greene answered.

Pauley said he acted only after running into other council members’ stonewalling.

“When we’re not getting an honest answer from the council or the chairman, we have a due diligence to find out for ourselves,” he said.

Later, Greene pressed on the issue of council member behavior, saying elected leaders should “stay in our lane.”

Greene then dismissed the issue, saying members of the public can always file FOIA requests or ask county officials directly if they have any questions.

“Everyone would like news yesterday about what’s happening tomorrow,” she said. “We have the administrator, we have the deputy administrator, and we have the FOIA.”

The S.C. Freedom of Information Act does not compel citizens to submit written requests to access public information. It is a legal tool that is provided for citizens and the media to obtain information from governments when those governments won’t provide it.

Greene regularly declines to answer questions from The Voice when the newspaper approaches her seeking comment.

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