Dear Editor,

Since the River’s Edge scandal hit the news everyone has been asking “Who?” “What?” And “How Much?” Former S.C. State trustee Jonathan Pinson and Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin were business partners in the River’s Edge project. Benjamin’s name has not come up publicly in any indictments, so far, according to news media. The big question is: If Benjamin has unlawful involvement, will it be exposed? Or are there great political and judicial forces that will keep any involvement from coming to light?

People are asking, especially since Benjamin’s car wreck the morning after his first election has never had a final report showing cell phone records, text records, black box records, alcohol and blood test records.

And the public still asks why.

Look at the amount the city paid for infrastructure costs for River’s Edge. Look also at the number of units, and divide the cost by the units. That is how much tax money you spent per unit, and that money was borrowed.

Benjamin sold his share and then two days later filed to run for mayor. There has been a persistent, nasty rumor that Benjamin promised former mayor Bob Coble that if council approved and provided the infrastructure improvements, he would not run for mayor. I have tried hard to track the truth to this, but those well connected in this town will not speak publicly, only privately out of fear.

The city employee in the Pinson indictment is rumored to be the former head of Columbia Community Development. According to inside sources, the door to this person’s office was always locked whenever the person was out – yet no other doors for were locked for other important officials. In addition, inside sources say that one person hired to oversee city development funds was threatened by unknown sources if he continued to attempt to bring errors to light.

Finally, the “Jody, grow up” comment made by Benjamin to a WIS TV 10 reporter Jody Barr reassures the public of neither transparency nor accountability – both promises by mayor Benjamin during his election campaigns (and part of his “strong mayor” pitch). It also does not reassure us of his innocence. Would it not be better to wait until this matter is over, and then vote on “strong mayor?”

And what happens then if guilt is found?

Joe Azar
Columbia, S.C.

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