First was the rigged election seven years ago that robbed county taxpayers of more than $1 billion.
Next were soaring deficits resulting from the rampant misappropriation and mismanagement of these funds.
And predictably there has been all manner of alleged graft on the part of individual council members (current and former) … prompting multiple calls for investigations.
This news outlet and others – like The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper – have been trying to get to the bottom of this mess. So far, our efforts have been trained on trying to obtain documents related to the scandal.
Including documents the county refuses to release …
In our latest report, we referenced a secret audit of the controversial penny tax program (which was approved via the rigged 2012 election). County council paid for this audit with public funds – yet refuses to release it to the public.
It turns out there is a good reason for that … the audit doesn’t exist.
(Click to view)
(Via: Richland County S.C.)
According to an email exchange between sitting Richland county councilman Jim Manning and county attorney Larry Smith, the document sought by the media – as well as state and federal investigators – was “never reduced to writing.”
Wait … what?
In the email exchange (a copy of which was obtained by this outlet), Manning wrote to Smith earlier this month seeking a copy of the audit. Additionally, he asked him to turn over the document to South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson and U.S. attorney Sherri Lydon as part of their investigatory efforts.
Smith’s response to this request was … stunning.
“I am not familiar with a forensic audit that may have been sent to (Wilson) or (Lydon),” he wrote. “Perhaps, what you maybe (sic) referring to is what was characterized by our auditors as an internal review discovery and investigative services that was performed as it relates to the county’s finances.”
Ummm … okay.
“As to that information,” Smith continued, “it was never reduced to writing in the form of a report and given to the county. The information was given to the council in the form of a briefing, by our auditors, during our retreat in Myrtle Beach several years ago.”
In other words … nobody dared write any of this stuff down.
Don’t believe us? Take a look …
(Click to view)
Unreal. This strikes us as far worse than failing to abide by the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Maybe even worse than destroying a public document in the hopes of covering up a scandal.
No, this is a new level of corruption …
Unfazed by this brazenness, Manning responded to Smith’s admission by asking him whether the verbal, unwritten briefing he cited in his email cleared council members of “any potential Richland county financial wrong doings and such?”
And such …
Here was Smith’s response to that inquiry …
I don’t recall all of the matters that were raised in (the) internal review. Therefore, I’m not prepared to say, based on my recollection, that council members, individually, were “cleared.” However, based on the nature of the matters that they discussed; in my opinion, questions were raised regarding whether or not the council, as a body, was fulfilling its oversight and fiduciary responsibilities.
So, he doesn’t remember and isn’t prepared to say, but maybe … generally speaking … collectively, yeah, there were some questions.
In his opinion.
Seriously … is this a joke? Isn’t refreshing one’s recollections precisely why these things are supposed to be written down?
Especially when tax money is appropriated in an effort to determine how other tax money was wasted?
“We believe it is abundantly clear that we are looking at credible allegations of serious wrongdoing involving current and former Richland county council members (and staff),” we wrote last month. “Furthermore, it appears to us that efforts have been undertaken to conceal various misdeeds.”
Apparently those efforts go much deeper than we could have possibly imagined …
Wilson and Lydon need to immediately open a joint investigation into Richland county to determine just how much public money has been misspent, who profited from the misappropriation and who conspired to cover it up.
Enough with the hiding … it is time for taxpayers to start getting some answers for a change.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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