LETTER: Elected officials need to be in charge of economic development money
In the process of turning rocks over within the creation of the Laurens County Economic Development Corp., I have discovered how a small group of employees has produced a scheme to deceive the taxpayers, hide themselves away from oversight and enrich their lifestyle.
Upon Jim Colman assuming the chairmanship of the LCEDC, they completed the paper work to become a 501c entity (this request is on file and I have viewed same). They would become a private, nonprofit corp. with no ties to the county government and no oversight. I filed a request (forms 990) to review their tax information for the past three years, which is required by law that it be filed. Much to my surprise, the feds responded that there was no 501c LCEDC company! No tax return had ever been filed. So, I made a phone call and was informed the LCDC was not a department of Laurens County Government.
I pulled up the county "new" web page, and there on the new designed county web page was a department listed as the "LCDC". Turned out, this was nothing more than directing you to their web page. I wondered why the county lawyer was listed as "the county lawyer" on the county web page and listed on the LCDC web page as an advisor? Deception?
All this came about while I have made a few public comments as to who they answer to. They answer to no one, but the county does controls the $360,000 fee in lieu of taxes that they demand every year for their budget. I have been told by a member of county council that their 2016 audit listed over a million dollars fund balance. This money is used to entertain new industrial prospects, in a lavish manner which the members all take part in. Golf outing, luncheons, travel, and etc. County council could reduce or not fund this lifestyle with four votes. The chairman made a motion to reduce this amount last year, but did not receive a second, therefore, there was no discussion! This money could be used for a new fire headquarters, new roof on the administration building, or a new EMS station in HT. The taxpayers need their money more than the LCDC needs the lavish lifestyle of their members.
There may be a few council members who understand they answer to no one, but have been appointed as members of the board. They remain silent for their private educational projects being taken into consideration this past month. Why spend County tax dollars when federal grant monies (ETA ,WIOA) could be requested? Go Laurens had an article relating to federal grant monies (a total of $24,000 is available through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) for businesses in the counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda). There is no reason whatsoever that the LCDC venture into the field of education! They had become a cancer with tentacles in areas that is not their concern.
As I recall from the creation of the LCDC as chairman, my only interest was recruiting industrial companies to locate in Laurens County. In the past 25 years, the only area of growth has been in the LCDC 's administration staff, and their office spaces. In this case, the elected board has lost all control of their finances.
I often ask myself why this conduct is allowed? The answer lies in a comment a news reporter once shared with me. His PC government professor said he never voted in a local election, just the national elections. It happens because good people assume corruption is not in Laurens County. Folks, the swamp on Little River needs draining! Please keep this in mind when you go to the polls to elect a new slate of county officials.
First chairman of the LCEDC