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Shrimp 'n Grits

Riley’s Sofa Super Store Cover-up Conspiracy

Lee Walton

Glenn Smith’s explosive article in Sunday’s Palter and Chatter finally exposed the Riley Administration’s bungling attempts to muzzle its own handpicked panel of fire experts hired to investigate the Sofa Super Store fire that needlessly killed nine CFD firefighters. Against all odds and contrary to anything Charlestonians could imagine, a few Palter and Chatter editors and at least one brave journalist have finally mustered the courage to confront Riley head-on and very publicly. By publishing a factual account of e-mails between panel members, the Palter and Chatter finally exposed an intense three-year conspiracy by Riley and his administration to ignore, dismiss, deflect and cover-up the findings and recommendations of the city’s own nationally prominent panel of fire experts.

The following paragraphs are from a “Shrimp ‘n Grits” article first published one-year ago to the day. Sadly, these prophetic musings pale in comparison to Sunday’s scathing headline indictment of the Riley Administration:

“Somebody’s got to go to jail”

“To quote Agent Sadusky as he sat with Ben Gates near the alter of historic Trinity Church after the latter had just found the Knights Templar Treasure in the blockbuster movie, National Treasure, “Somebody’s got to go to jail.” Similarly, to atone for the nine CFD firefighters whose lives were lost in the tragic Sofa Super Store conflagration over two years ago, somebody’s got to be held accountable! Thus far, through the combined efforts of every crony, liberal sycophant, emasculated poltroon, and Broad Street pettifogger in the Riley Administration, there has been no justice, no apology, and no public accountability for the gross, willful negligence that precipitated the loss of nine brave firefighters who were abandoned in their greatest moment of need by the very men that had cheated them of the necessary training, equipment, and fire ground leadership that should have saved their lives. Somebody’s got to be held accountable! .

For decades Mayor J. Pericles Riley has willfully and knowingly lied to the citizens of Charleston, his own handpicked City Council, the men and women of the Charleston Fire Department, and probably, even himself as he shamelessly and arrogantly boasted that his ISO Class-1 Fire Department was “the best in the Nation” led by the “best fire chief in America.” During the early months following this tragic and wanton loss of life, Riley and his closet of cronies, lied, intimidated, cajoled, and threatened anyone and any agency who would even suggest that he or his hand-picked, uneducated buffoon of a fire chief were anything other than innocent bystanders to an event that no fire department in the nation could have, or would have handled differently. Somebody’s got to be held accountable!

The use of inappropriate booster hoses, insufficient water supply, lack of an on-site command structure, lack of accountability for personnel, out-dated and half-full air packs, sending men into a known death-trap with a steel truss roof system, over confidence to the point of refusing critical equipment and assistance from neighboring fire departments, and raw arrogance bred of ignorance on the highest levels of leadership killed nine men. There’s no other way to view the facts that have come to light following investigation after investigation and finding after finding. Somebody’s got to be held accountable!”

Glenn Smith’s A-1, above-the-fold article, “Experts’ e-mails blast Riley, Thomas over sofa store fire”, may very well be the long overdue tipping point in the tragic three-year saga and increasing string of law suits that have followed the tragic Sofa Super Store conflagration.

The time has now come for public action to end to this convoluted madness. The burden now rests squarely upon the City Council of Charleston to act decisively as the City’s lawfully elected legislative body. Given what is now publicly known about the Riley Administration’s cover-up conspiracy, the integrity and credibility of City Council must now also be tested. Council should demand that the State Law Enforcement Division or other appropriate law enforcement authority formally investigate the deepening conspiracy now being perpetrated by the Riley Administration to cover-up factual evidence and distort investigative findings in brazen efforts to divert blame and accountability from themselves.

Alternatively, City Council could collectively act as a judicial body, as provided in City Code Sections 2-19 and 2-20, and demand an impeachment hearing of Mayor Riley to consider the grounds for his forfeiture of office. As he so often likes to remind City Council, Riley is both mayor and a voting member of City Council. If charged with conspiracy, Riley would be subject to the same rules as any other council member including the forfeiture of office if found guilty by City Council. Riley’s got to be held accountable!

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