benjamin car crash

By FITSNews || Not only has Columbia, S.C. mayor-elect Steve Benjamin not even been sworn in yet, it hasn’t even been 24 hours since his electoral victory … and yet the new leader of South Carolina’s capital city is already staring down a scandal.

As well as charges of hypocrisy.

Benjamin – whose “hope and change”-themed campaign was heavy on calls for government transparency – was scheduled to spend most of Wednesday doing media interviews following his victory Tuesday night over city councilman Kirkman Finlay III.

That all came to a screeching halt (bad pun, sorry) when the mayor-elect’s Mercedes SUV slammed into a Toyota Tercel in downtown Columbia, S.C. early Wednesday morning.  The woman behind the wheel of the Tercel, identified as Deborah Rubens, was on her way to work as a server at the Clarion Town House hotel when the accident occurred.

Benjamin suffered no major injuries, but Rubens has been hospitalized as a result of injuries she sustained in the crash.  No information is available regarding her condition, and Benjamin – who promised an unprecedented level of openness in his administration – isn’t commenting on the crash except through statements from his attorneys.

One of those statements – released Wednesday afternoon – has called for an “outside law enforcement agency” to investigate the crash in order to avoid the appearance of favoritism on the part of the Columbia Police Department, who are literally days away from working for Benjamin.

While that certainly sounds noble of the mayor-elect, the last time we checked our state law enforcement agencies had plenty of work on their plates – and seriously, is it too much to ask for anybody in government to do the job we pay them to do these days?

Really – do we not trust Columbia Police Department investigators to impartially investigate and assign responsibility for this crash based on the evidence they uncover?

This sets a bad, bad precedent …

One state agency, the S.C. Department of Public Safety, has already been dragged into the mess – releasing a statement Wednesday saying that its troopers (who were called to the scene for some reason) found “no indication” that Benjamin was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.

Wait … say huh?

Did anybody even accuse him of that?

Something’s fishy here, people … a preemptive declaration of sobriety (with no breathalyzer administered)?

Obviously, we’re not going to speculate on who is or isn’t at fault here.  Or if anybody had been drinking a little too much happy juice the night before.  Eventually, some law enforcement agency (somewhere) will get around to doing that.  We hope.

And we’re glad Benjamin is okay, just as we’re glad Rubens is (we think) going to be okay.

Finally, we would like to send out props to Benjamin for focusing on Rubens health and offering to go see her in the hospital.  That’s classy of him, and we know him well enough to know he’s genuinely concerned and not just looking to score political points.

Still, something’s up here …

UPDATE: According to WIS TV 10 (NBC – Columbia, SC) the woman Benjamin hit may not be “okay.” In fact, she’s on life support.

UPDATE II: According to the S.C. DPS, their assessment of Benjamin’s sobriety took place two hours after the accident.

Pic: WIS TV 10 (NBC – Columbia SC)