Guest Editorial: Councilman Brock pushes back against Frye’s accusations

Last week, the Country Chronicle published a letter to the editor submitted by Blythewood Chamber of Commerce Director Phil Frye regarding the July 25 and August 22, 2022 town council meetings entitled: “Councilman Donald Brock resign from your seat on council.”

In his letter, Mr. Frye made numerous accusations against me pertaining to the meetings that did not happen in the live stream. The videos are available to the public…go to townofblythewoodsc.com and scroll down to Live Stream Videos on the left side of the screen.

Frye: It is abundantly clear that Donald Brock has self-anointed himself as the sole authority on all matters technical and/or legal as to the business of the Town Council of the Town of Blythewood.

Firstly, can one recollect the last occasion that Councilman Donald Brock did not, upon presentation of the minutes of previous Town Council meetings, challenge and offer an amendment to the wording of said minutes?

Brock: I reviewed the videos of regular monthly meetings since January 2022, and there are only two meetings in the last eight months in which I made a correction to the minutes. I noted, in the April 25, 2022 meeting (minute 18:25), that Judy Bender should have been recorded as Jay Bender. I also asked that the minutes reflect that I recused myself before council discussed and voted for rezoning of my neighborhood (Oakhurst), not after. That’s important. I also noted in the July 25, 2022 meeting (minute 14:20) that I had recused myself from Item D, not item C as was stated in the minutes. There was nothing out of the ordinary about these corrections or my demeanor in making them.

Frye: Obviously, this represents an apparent belief that town staff is incapable of properly recording and producing accurate minutes because he objects to the wording presented.

Brock: This statement is blatantly false. I simply corrected something that was recorded incorrectly. The 12th edition of Roberts Rules of Order provides for such a correction, and it is a common procedure at every meeting of town council for the mayor to ask for any corrections of the minutes.

“The only proper way to object to the approval of the secretary’s draft of the minutes is to offer a correction to it.” (Roberts Rules of Order 41:11.)

It is important to correct errors in the minutes since, in some instances, uncorrected minutes could lead to or prevent problems down the road, including lawsuits. A correction is not indicative of the clerk’s inability to record minutes accurately, but more likely indicative of council members’ failure to speak into our microphones, making it difficult at times for the clerk to clearly discern our comments. Mrs. Cowen took the minutes, and she was the best.

Frye:  Mr. Brock incessantly challenges citizens or representatives of organizations as to the validity and accuracy of presentations or reports made to Town Council when it is apparent that the items presented do not champion or conform to his personal causes or ideas. These challenges are most often presented in a manner that belittle the competency of the persons making these presentations.

Brock: Councilman Rich McKenrick, Councilman Sloan Griffin and I all regularly ask questions of representatives’ reporting on moneys the Town has awarded their event.  That is our responsibility as stewards of the Town’s assets. Organizations that receive public money from the Town for events should expect to be asked questions about how that money was spent, especially if their reports are unclear or missing significant information, as was the case here.

Frye: Mr. Brock is also, apparently, the only person competent enough to determine the home (zip code or license plate tags) of attendees to events presented by or for the Blythewood community. This is resoundingly apparent by his stated claim that staff, vendors or performers at these events are ineligible to be included in the event attendance presentations.

Brock: In reviewing the video of the July 25 and August 22 town council meetings, I do not see where I stated that staff, vendors or performers at these events are ineligible to be included in the event attendance presentations. I simply did not say that.

It’s important to know, here, that Mayor Franklin and Councilman Eddie Baughman state frequently and publicly that council awards H-tax money to events specifically to bring out-of-town visitors to Blythewood. So all out-of-town visitors matter in the final report.

Referring to the Chamber’s final report as presented at the July 25 council meeting, Town Administrator Carroll Williamson stated that, “the estimated attendance [at the Ribfest] was 1,500 – 2,000, and the Chamber’s zip code analysis showed 18.5 percent traveled more than 50 miles to the event.” That would have amounted to about 400 out-of-town visitors – a good number.

But that is not what Mr. Frye’s report stated. It stated that 18.5 percent of the 119 vendors and contestants – not of the 1,500 to 2,000 visitors – traveled more than 50 miles to the event. That is a big difference and a misrepresentation of the percentage of out-of-town visitors who attended the event – 18.5 percent of 119 is only about 22 people.     

Another example is a presenter that same evening who stated in his report that spectators traveled to his Blythewood event all the way from California, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Maine and South Carolina. When I asked if those were spectators or performers coming from those states, the presenter was vague, saying only, “Through the front gate.” I let it go and said nothing more about it.

I did, however, question how the presenter came up with his ticket sales numbers in his report. He said he would get back to me with that information. After 45 days, that information has not been provided to me.

Frye: During the July 25, 2022, Town Council meeting Mr. Brock challenged the validity of the qualifications of an individual appointed to the Town of Blythewood’s Accommodations Tax (A-Tax) Committee who has served on this committee for a number of years, claiming that this individual’s recent employment by the Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce would represent a conflict of interest concerning matters presented to the A-Tax Committee.

Brock: No, I did not claim, but merely asked Mr. Williamson whether it might be a conflict of interest for someone who works for the chamber to be the cultural liaison representative on a board that votes to potentially award funds to the chamber. Mr. Williamson agreed that it might be [a conflict] and said he would look into that.

Frye: The facts are that the Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce, since fiscal year 2020-21, has not made any request for A-Tax funding from the Town of Blythewood.

Brock: That is correct. The chamber now requests H-Tax revenue, since it is less restrictive in nature.

Frye: Mr. Brock’s actions are an embarrassment to the Town of Blythewood and its citizens, and the citizens of Blythewood should demand that he immediately RESIGN.

Mr. Brock continued on a path of posturing during Town Council’s August 22, 2022 monthly meeting, apparently believing that he alone is the authority on procedures and publicly seeking a legal opinion regarding procedural actions relative to a requested motion to amend the August 22 meeting agenda presented by a fellow Councilman.

Brock: The town government pays the attorney to sit at that table next to council during meetings so that if councilmembers, including me, have questions, we can seek legal opinions from her. It is significant to note that Councilman McKenrick, who was endorsed by the chamber, also sought a similar legal opinion from the attorney that same evening, but Mr. Frye didn’t mention that or criticize Councilman McKenrick for doing so.

Frye: To wit, removement from the August 22 agenda of an action item requesting remaining funding for an event the fellow Councilman believed to have been inaccurately presented for consideration based upon changes made from the original funding request did not occur and the meeting continued with the passing of a motion to approve the agenda as presented.

Brock: While it’s difficult to follow the above sentence, it appears that Mr. Frye finds it acceptable for Councilman McKenrick to question information in a final report that he believes to be inaccurate but finds it offensive for me to do the same thing.

Here’s what’s on the video: Councilman McKenrick made a motion to block the Juneteenth final report by removing it from the agenda. Being removed from the agenda would preclude the Juneteenth event from receiving its final 20 percent funding. Both Councilmen McKenrick and Baughman voted to remove the Juneteenth agenda item. However, myself, Councilman Griffin and Mayor Franklin voted against removing the agenda item, so Councilman McKenrick’s motion failed 3-2. Another 3-2 vote later in the meeting approved awarding Juneteenth its final award money. Again, Councilmen McKenrick and Baughman voted against awarding Juneteenth the final award money.

In truth, all three presentations (Ribfest, Rodeo and Juneteenth) contained questionable information to varying degrees; however, Councilmen Baughman and McKenrick voted to hold only Juneteenth accountable.

Frye: After unanimously adopting a resolution advocating for civil engagement and the verbal recitation of an oath by all Councilmen pledging to practice and promote civility, this meeting then continued with one Councilman presenting a public apology for the treatment of several citizens by “some on Town Council” during its July 25, 2022 Town Council meeting and citing those actions as “an embarrassment” to Town Council and Blythewood citizens.

Brock: Yes, Councilman Baughman told the council audience that he apologized to Mr. Coggins (rodeo) and Mr. Frye (chamber), for what he called ‘the way they were treated.’ He did not say anything about apologizing to Juneteenth presenter Ms. Tina Torres for the way she was treated when she came before council to ask for the funds.

Frye: Moving on to action items, Brock then challenged the validity of an item on the agenda regarding discussion and approval of the Final Hospitality Tax Report for the 2022 Rib Fest presented by the Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce, thus requiring an additional procedural vote.

Brock: It’s interesting that Mr. Frye is critical of the “additional procedural vote,” considering it was the vote that allowed the chamber to receive the final 20 percent of its event funding. That vote, however, was not taken in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order. It was based on a motion made by Councilman McKenrick at the August 22 meeting, to bring a failed vote from the previous July 25 meeting back for reconsideration (re-vote).

According to Roberts Rules, a motion to reconsider must be brought by a council member who had been on the prevailing side of the July 25 vote. Not only was Councilman McKenrick not on the prevailing side of the vote, he was not even present for the vote, both points that Mr. Frye failed to mention.

Frye: During discussions following a motion and second to approve the final allocation of $3,200 in H-Tax funds for the 2022 Rib Fest, Brock adamantly objected to the apology made earlier by his fellow Town Councilman, characterizing council’s action as “nepotism.” Publicly referring to council’s motion to approve the final H-Tax allocation for the 2022 Rib Fest as “b—–t” Brock then admonished citizens in the audience who objected to his actions and language. 

Brock: Per the video of the August 22, 2022 meeting, I made no comment whatsoever about Councilman Baughman’s apology. During discussion, I did say that council, as a whole, writes checks to friends and that it is bullshit to say they don’t. Furthermore, I did accuse members of council of nepotism (minute 46:17).

Upon my comments, Mrs. Sutton Shaw, who has received over $100,000 from the Town this year for her non-profit, shouted out that she did not like my use of profanity. However, I did not admonish her, but stated in a low voice, “I’m not concerned with that, Ms. Shaw.”  This can be confirmed on the video (minute 46:50).

It is also noteworthy that Mr. Frye did not have any negative comments when Councilman Baughman said, “screw the pooch” from the dais earlier this year during a frustrating moment. There are other instances of our town’s leaders verbally attacking each other as well as members of the audience from the dais and at least one prominent leader in the town using profanity in public with a far more violent meaning than bullshit.

Frye: In defiance of his oath to practice and promote civility, Mr. Brock clearly has his own agenda and most often casts votes that are contrary to the majority of Town Council.

Brock: So, there we have it, I “most often cast votes that are contrary to the majority of town council.” In other words, I won’t go along to get along – clearly, reason enough to call for my head.

Frye: Mr. Brock’s actions continue to be an embarrassment to the Town of Blythewood and its citizens, and the citizens of Blythewood should demand that he immediately RESIGN.

Brock: I work hard to be a responsible councilman and citizen. I try to make the best decisions I can for the town. It should not be an issue that I do not always vote in agreement with other members of council. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. My voting record is available in the minutes, and I am happy to discuss any vote or comment I’ve made in my nearly three years on council.  My email address is on the town’s website and I’m happy to share my personal cell phone number if anyone wants to request it.

I have not had the first call, email, or text to resign from anyone other than Mayor Franklin, Mr. Frye and Mr. Mike Ross. All three of whom fan the flame to get others to join them in their campaign to disparage me. Contrary to what some may think, I support their right to object and protest if they feel the need. Their positions are self-serving, but within their rights.

But I do agree with them about one thing. Enough is enough.

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