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Shrimp 'n Grits

CARTA's "Fox" in TAB's "Hen House"
Lee Walton

"Will he or won't he?" That's the $64,000 (more like $6 million) question soon to be discussed during CARTA funding deliberations likely to come before the County's Transportation Advisory Board (TAB).

With all CARTA's recent "bad press" about its restart "stutter-step" after adding new Routes to Nowhere and with only a few riders on the same old big buses, the CARTA Board now finds itself in a very publicly awkward position. CARTA is now asking County Council for 33% of this year's ½ % Sales Tax revenue instead of the 16% sold to County voters who supported the referendum in November, 2004. Alternatively, the CARTA Board must cut several of the newly added routes and "eat crow" due to its dismal rider-ship and fare-box revenue projections - Why should anyone be surprised by this most recent demonstration of CARTA's continued incompetent management and leadership?

One of the most outspoken supporters of public transportation on the TAB is none other than Mr. Patterson Smith, CARTA's Board Chairman. Mercy! Imagine that! Not to worry, it's got to be just one of those rare and random occurrences that happens only seldom in nature. Ah, but the plot thickens! Mr. Patterson Smith, who was appointed to the CARTA Board by the Charleston County Legislative Delegation, was appointed to the TAB by, you guessed it, none other than Charleston County Council Chairman Leon Stavrinakis, a long-time CARTA and ½ % Sales Tax supporter. Wow, another random occurrence; lightning does hit the same spot twice. But it's even more amazing and mysterious, both Smith and Stavrinakis just happen to be political cronies and willing lackeys of none other than Joseph "Pericles" Riley, CARTA's loudest drumbeater!

Thus are sown the seeds of a serious legal conflict-of-interest facing Mr. Patterson Smith.

In several prior opinions issued on similar potential conflicts-of-interest, the South Carolina State Ethics Commission has advised that a person "…who serves on more than one public position should follow the procedures of Section 8-13-700(B) if required to take an action or make decisions in one position affecting the other public position." This State Code section would require that Mr. Patterson Smith, as Chairman of the CARTA Board, refrain from and not participate in deliberation of any CARTA funding issue coming before the Transportation Advisory Board of which he is also a member. Section 8-13-700(B) would also require that he provide a written statement to the TAB Chairman, John Knott, stating the nature of the potential conflict-of-interest and refrain from any discussion or participate in any action taken by the TAB as it would relate to additional funding for CARTA.

Will Mr. Patterson Smith abide by State Ethics requirements or yield to temptation and political pressure from "on high" to twist the arms of other TAB members to come to the rescue of the now funding-strapped CARTA? Let's all just sit back and watch the feathers fly out of the TAB "Hen House" door.

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