The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
County Council, May 16
County steps in to help victims of child abuse
Strong debate on proposed administration/policy rules likelyWarwick Jones
It was hard to oppose. MUSC was before Council pleading for funds to keep its Child Abuse Pediatrics Division (CAPD) running. There was no doubt about the worthiness of the service provided by the Division. But State funds had been cut and the Division needed to make up the shortfall. The County’s municipalities and surrounding counties were being approached to make contributions and eliminate the financing shortfall. Would Charleston County contribute $50,000?
There was a lot of discussion about the contribution but little dissention. All Council members, except one, voted for the payment for this year and staff was tasked to find a source for the funds. Considering the support on Council, Council member Schweers was exceptionally brave to speak out against the payment. He acknowledged the merit of the Division and perhaps it had more merit than other entities that sought funding. But there were other deserving causes that needed to be considered and a decision should be deferred until budget deliberations. He also noted that state funding for the County has just been cut, similarly to that for MUSC. It was possible that the County would need to consider increasing taxes next year. Council member Schweers abstained in voting for the payment to MUSC.
There was a lot of support for the CAPD, and it included the Sheriff’s office. Assistant Sheriff Lucas noted the importance of the CAPD and opined that only MUSC could do the job.
Sadly child abuse, both sexual and physical is too common in the County. MUSC told Council that last year there were 1554 “unduplicated cases” of child abuse last year seen by the Division. Of the total, 61% were from Charleston County. The cases were broken down evenly between Caucasians and African Americans. Council was reminded of the damage sustained by those abused and the lingering effects. The Division not only attempted to help the victims of abuse but also helped in gathering evidence to convict abusers.
The CAPD has a budget of $1.2 million but is facing a potential shortfall of $450,000.
Council member Rawl is Chair of the Administration Policy/Rules Committee. Acting in that capacity, he gave notice that at the next meeting of the Committee, he intended to propose two rule changes. We suspect there will be some heated discussion at that meeting.
The first change is to limit the term that the County Chair can serve to 2 consecutive years. The second will be designed to better define the relationship between the County Attorney and others - the Chairman, Administrator, Council members, Appointed Officers, staff etc. As part of this, all opinion of the Legal Department was to be recorded and be available for members.
As the meeting of the Committee yesterday, there was no discussion of the proposed restriction in the Chairman’s term. But there was quite a lot about the second broad proposal. Council member Summey asked what are we changing and County Chair asked why? Council member Condon indicated strong opposition to making all opinions by the County Attorney available to Council members or others. Somewhere late in the discussion, which was going around in circles, somebody thought that it would be a good idea to ask County Attorney Dawson for his opinion. We thought his opinion was sensible. He would be happy to give his opinion but it should wait until the proposed rule was written and better defined.
As viewers are probably aware, there are divisions on Council as the role of the County Attorney Dawson. Presently, he reports to the County Chair but some Council members think he should be directly responsible to the County Administrator. Then there is the complication of Attorney Dawson’s position as head of Solid Waste. From all accounts he has done a good job as manager of both the Division and of the Legal Department. He has been well remunerated but in the opinion of some Council members, too well remunerated. Chairman Pryor has been a solid supporter of the County Attorney as have some other members of Council. This support has irked some Council members.