The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Citizens denied information on meeting of Commission
Chairman of St Andrews Parks and Playground criticized
The actions of the Chairman of the St Andrews Parks and Playground Commission (P&P) in relation to an enquiry by citizens over millage rates seem unjust and probably illegal.
Citizens’ concerns have grown recently over the difference between the St Andrews Public Service District (PSD) & the P&P regarding a tax decrease. The PSD has budgeted an 18% tax decrease for next year while the P&P is keeping its millage rate the same.
We approached members of the P&P earlier this year to join us in a common front to lower property taxes in the unincorporated areas of West Ashley. Their answer had been that, yes, they could lower taxes, but, no, they didn't have to do so. I had also heard reports that this matter had been discussed at the May 3, 2007 monthly meeting, and I was curious to hear the conversation regarding their refusal to lower property taxes.
I first emailed Mr. Kevin Walsh, General Manager of the St. Andrews Parks & Playgrounds asking for a copy of the May 3 meeting tape. Mr. Walsh's reply email stated that he had grave concerns as to why I wanted a copy of the meeting tape.
I then replied stating that I wanted to hear the discussion during the meeting. Seemingly acting under instructions of the P&P Chairman Jeff Gladwell, Mr. Walsh turned down the request I made under the Freedom of Information act.
In a follow up email, I cited the SC Code of Laws, Title 30, Chapter 4 that addresses such requests and clearly states that recordings are considered official government records and can be requested by any member of the public.
Mr. Walsh then replied that the meeting tape had been erased.
I have subsequently learned from copies of e mails now in my possession that Jeff Gladwell, Chairman of the P&P, ordered Mr. Walsh to deny my request for the recording. His exact words were: 'under no circumstances give him a tape or allow him to duplicate any of them’. The tape was then destroyed.
Not only did the Chairman order Mr. Walsh to deny me the meeting tapes, he also emailed 7 other individuals of his decision, one of those being an elected official of another governmental agency.
I am asking the proper authorities for a full investigation of this matter. I also think that in light of the severity of this situation, it would be in the best interest of the St. Andrews Parish for Chairman Gladwell and Mr. Walsh, General Manager of the St. Andrews Parks & Playgrounds, to voluntarily relinquish their respective positions, pending the investigation and resolution of this matter.
Needless to say, I am outraged by any action that keeps the truth from the people. We will never know exactly what was discussed at this meeting. The transcribed minutes of their previous meetings had been vague. I wanted to know exactly was discussed and by whom. With the destruction of government property, no one will ever know.
I am in the process of retaining legal council for advice and guidance. I am calling for a full and complete investigation.