Letter: What Do Credentials Have to Do With It?

I was delighted to see the positive coverage in the article “Fairfield Electric Coop Board members achieve credentials,” published in The Voice of Fairfield County Thursday, February 18, 2023 edition. The author characterized the accomplishments of the board members’ certification from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECAS) in a changing business environment. The article highlighted attendance, core competencies, sharpened body of knowledge, and demonstrated understanding contained in five core courses: Director Duties and Liabilities, Understanding the Electric Business, Board Operations and Process, Strategic Planning and Financial Decision Making.” A worthwhile investment of time and resources? It would appear so.  

In stark contrast to the glowing report on Board credentialing, Mr. Michael Smith in his article, “New Council Cracks down on Expense Reimbursements,” blasts Mr. Bell, Mr. Roseborough, Mr. Robinson and I for so-called excessive travel reimbursement to attain virtually the same credentials as mentioned for the Electric Coop Board. He incorrectly insinuates that we committed illegal acts and drained county resources to achieve our SCAC credentials. His assessment is patently false and reeks of a double standard.

Lumping everyone together and picking and choosing items to highlight without appropriate context, Mr. Smith mischaracterized individual expense reimbursements and minimized professional certification attained to better serve the citizens of Fairfield County. Not once was the expense reimbursement policy adopted in 2014 that validated these expenses mentioned or published.

Since others may have questions, let me provide the context that was missing from Mr. Smith’s superficial appraisal. In 2021, I was listed as receiving $4,119.16 in expenses reimbursements.  There are several reasons my reimbursements are high. First, I live approximately 20 miles from Winnsboro, farther than most councilpersons, which results in higher mileage cost. Second, as council vice chair, I was frequently involved in hiring new staff, negotiating various contracts, and planning to move into the new administration building. Mr. Smith stated, “Records show Greene sought reimbursement for 44-mile roundtrips to pick up her agenda packets from the county administration building, even though they could have been emailed like they were to others.” Third, like many rural areas of the county, internet service is spotty and sometimes simply “out,” which requires me to pick up my agenda packet on occasion. 

Unlike the Fairfield Electric Coop Board members who were praised for seeking and securing certification NRECAS, my participation in the South Carolina Commerce Department Economic Development Institute was characterized as an example of “wasteful spending in council member reimbursement requests.” This investment was not wasted. As Chair of the Economic Development Committee and a new council member, attending the Institute was both a learning opportunity and a networking opportunity that allowed me to experience and study a variety of economic development practices. Moreover, both Mr. Roseborough and I received certificates of completion and we have put this new knowledge to good use for the citizens of Fairfield County.

The mention of new reimbursement policies by Mr. Smith is misleading because my expenses were incurred and approved at a time when the former reimbursement policy was in place. I opposed the new policy not because I am against guidelines, but because I am for specificity. The new reimbursement policy is not specific enough to address all relevant issues. A lack of clarity leads to confusion, and when a single policy can be interpreted in multiple ways this inevitably causes conflict. The new policy doesn’t even clarify how items omitted from the previous policy will be handled.

I have and will continue to serve the citizens in District 2 and Fairfield County as a whole even in the face of biased assessment and negative characterizations. I am here to do the work of the people and there is much work to be done. 

Shirley Greene

Fairfield County Dist. 2 Councilwoman

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