Councilman calls out Mayor Franklin for three years of ‘iron fist’ behavior

BLYTHEWOOD – After Mayor Bryan Franklin publicly demeaned two Blythewood town councilmen for requesting a special called meeting that he didn’t want, Councilman Rich McKenrick shot back, describing Franklin’s behavior as “the iron fist of Bryan Franklin over three years.”

Both McKenrick, Councilman Brock and one other unnamed councilman requested the meeting called to address council’s failure to consistently manage approvals of applications for and awarding of the Town’s Accommodation Tax (A-Tax) and Hospitality Tax (H-Tax) revenue to organizations holding events in the town.

Franklin touched a nerve when he opened the meeting with a remark about the special meeting being requested by two council members, “so that what we say here is obviously watched by the public.”

Later in the meeting, Franklin spent almost eight minutes publicly chastising those on council who disagreed with him.

McKenrick rebuked Franklin for his rant.

“This is not the military. This is public government,” McKenrick said.

“The last thing I want is to be lectured by the mayor of the Town of Blythewood,” McKenrick said. “If the majority of this council requests a special called meeting…it’s your responsibility to call the meeting.”

“I disagree,” Franklin said.

McKenrick said he had asked for a special meeting a week prior to the June 16 meeting – a request Franklin refused to grant. 

Later in the meeting, Franklin was emphatic that he would not call a special meeting in the future unless it was to vote for something.

Brock reminded him that there are other ways for council members to call a special meeting.

According to SC Statute SECT. 5-7-250(a), “…Special meetings may be held on the call of the mayor or of a majority of the members.”

This can be accomplished by the council members notifying the clerk and mayor in writing with their signatures on the request.

Brock said the purpose of the special meeting was to get “some clarification…answers and direction as to how we approve and fund H-tax and A-Tax applications for events.”

Since council passed a policy early last year to more efficiently approve and fund H-tax and A-tax applications from organizations who bring events to the town, Brock said issues have arisen such as  some applicants being approved after the deadline to apply and others being turned down.

“I think there’s been some confusion between the Town and the applicants…some reporting issues [by applicants]. I believe it would behoove the Town to establish clearer guidelines and expectations…then hold the applicants accountable when they apply and when they [submit] their final reports,” Brock said.

The policy approved by council last year basically set a deadline of Feb. 28 for applications for events in the following fiscal year. According to the policy, when council awards funds to an organization to help cover the costs of an event, it awards 80 percent of the money up front and the final 20 percent when the organization makes a final report to council – an accounting of revenue and expenditures along with receipts. Receipts have not always been included. Proof of event revenue is not always received by the Town since revenue from some of the larger events is cash from ticket, food and drink sales.

During his 8 minute tirade, Franklin covered several specific subjects on which he said he disagreed with other council members. He said he had no problem approving events that applied for funds after the deadline. He also suggested applicants had never asked for a refund of a loss on the event.

However a number of town funded events have suffered losses. Three years ago, the Town funded an organization with $17,360, and the organization lost $18,140.  And no one from the organization showed up at council to present a final report. That report was made by the mayor at the time.

Franklin also suggested that applicants could sign a contract if council feared the organization would take the 80 percent funds and abscond without doing the event.

“Mayor, we already have a contract,” Brock said. “It’s the application.”

“Right,” Franklin said, “but if we’re worried about someone changing something or not doing what they said, then you can have a vehicle to hold them accountable to that if you have a contract.”

“That vehicle, Mayor, is the five people sitting at this table,” McKenrick said. “The last thing I’m in favor of is getting another lawyer involved to figure out crap for this Town. If [the applicant] asks for money for X and spends it on Y, we have to hold [them] accountable. But we don’t.

“As we know from the last couple of years,” McKenrick said. “Significant issues can come up from the time an application is turned in to the time the event is held, and the application is unclear to both the applicant and to some degree council.”

Town Administrator Carroll Williamson pointed out that some municipalities only reimburse for events and do not fund fully or partially up front.

“I believe their [final] report would be far more accurate if [the Town] was funding the event after the fact,” Brock said.

“I think if you want to beef up the final report and the value of the final report,” Williamson said, “then move toward percentages.”

The town awards 80 percent of the award up front and 20 percent after the final report.

“Needing the funding to get started is slightly problematic because [the applicants are] essentially relying on the Town to bankroll their event and I don’t believe that’s the Town’s responsibility to bankroll all the events that occur throughout the fiscal year,” Brock said.

At one point Councilman Eddie Baughman said, “The policy was in place. We broke the policy. So if we’re going to point fingers, point fingers at ourselves and say, ‘Okay, we broke our own policy. We put it in place and broke it.’”

McKenrick said he would like for council to handle H- and A-Tax applications and funding awards the way it handles applications and funding for outside agencies.

“We set aside a pot of money for outside agencies,” McKenrick said. “Those outside agencies have to come and request it. [Council] grants it upon the approved amount that council put in the budget.”

Council set aside $37,500 for outside agencies and that funding is divvied up in various amounts among however many outside agencies apply for it.

Brock said he will suggest at the June 27. 2022, meeting  to keep the Feb. 28 application deadline but approve each application for funding at least 60-75 days prior to the event.

“They need to come to us,” Brock said. 

The final reading of the FY 22-23 budget will be held at that meeting at Doko Manor which will start at 6 p.m.

Here’s how the Town spends 65% of the State Hospitality tax revenue

Current project allocations from the hospitality tax revenue fund ($172,880.00) that are already in place.

  • Range Fore Hope Golf Tournament – $12,740
  • Range Fore Hope King for a Day – $12,740
  • RibFest – $12,000
  • Holiday Market – $5,500
  • BHS Tournament of Bands – $10,000
  • WHS Tournament of Bands – $12,000
  • Oktoberfest – $16,000
  • Soda City Girls Softball – $4,400
  • WHS Redhawk Pre Season Invitational – $7,500
  • BHS Bengals Youth Football – $11,500
  • Most Outreach Scholarship Gala – $10,000
  • USC Equestrian SEC Championship – $20,000
  • Christkindle Market – $16,000
  • Run with Rotary – $5,000
  • Juneteenth – $25,000

Council is allocating hospitality revenue for the following town events:

  • Christmas Tree Lighting – $1,500
  • July 4th Fireworks – $19,000
  • Big Grab – $5,000
  • Christmas Parade – $7,500

Another $11,900 of hospitality tax revenue goes to:

  • Blythewood Historical Society for Black History  – $5,000
  • Women’s History – $1,700
  • Veterans Day program – $3,000
  • Christmas Parade reception – $900
  •  Children’s Program – $1,300

Council is allocating a one-time amount of $700,000 of the hospitality funds to the Farmers Market for the matching fund to draw donations to build a facility in the park.

Here’s how the Town spends 30 percent of the State Hospitality Tax revenue:

  • The Town will pay the Lake Murray organization a total of $54,892 annually with $23,225 coming from the current FY 2022 state (30 percent) accommodations tax revenue and $31,667 coming from the FY 2023 state (30 percent) accommodations tax revenue.

Here’s how the town spends the Local Accommodations Tax revenue.

A consensus of council is to divide $122,000 of the local accommodations tax funds between Richland 2 sports projects ($47,000), the rodeo ($50,000) and the WSCGA golf tournament ($25,000) as listed:

  • SC Diamond Invitational – $20,000
  • WHS Queens of the Castle basketball tournament – $18,000
  • Lady Bengals Golf – $4,500
  • Boys Bengal Golf (Hutto Invitational)- $4,500
  • Doko Rodeo – $25,000
  • Pioneer Days rodeo – $25,000
  • SCGA Golf Tournament – $25,000

Funding Outside Agencies

The Town has budgeted $23,500 from its general fund to meet funding requests from certain outside agencies. Those requesting funds include:

  • Transitions -$5,000
  • Chamber of Commerce – $5,000
  • Meals on Wheels – $6,500
  • B-HE Athletic Assoc. – $6,000
  • Blythewood Soccer Club – $1,000
  • Several other outside agencies that are funded annually by the Town (Big Red Barn, Christian Assistance Bridge, YMCA and Camp Discover), did not receive funds under this category this year because they received larger amounts under the ARP fund category.

Proposed ARP Allocations

A majority of council members have agreed on these proposed one-time payouts from the ARP funds (that were moved into the general fund):

  • Town Government employees – $33,000
  • Farmers Market Facility – matching funds up to $700,000
  • Bethel-Hanberry Gym restoration (if it is deeded to the Town) – $500,000
  • Manor – $250,000 (split: $75% for Manor CIP; 25% for park CIP)
  • Big Red Barn – $100,000
  • Christian Assistance Bridge (CAB) – $75,000
  • Security for Park – $50,000
  • I-77 Crosswalk fence – $45,000 (assuming town receives an 80% SCDOT grant)
  • Lobbyist for Town Hall – $45,000
  • Combat Veterans Memorial in Doko Park – $40,000
  • Macedonia Church Food Bank – $25,000
  • YMCA Membership Assistance – $20,000
  • Camp Discovery – $15,000 CD (also receives $15,000 annually from state accommodations tax revenue)
  • Ft. Jackson Park – $20,000

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]