Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Republican Civil War in Anderson County
The Anderson County Council meeting Tuesday night was interesting. Thinly veiled accusations about the use of the one of the county's credit cards by Bill McAbee and one of his political appointees were made by members of the public that tend to be Cindy Wilson supporters.
Those public comments were made after Council Chairman Michael Thompson read a prepared statement that defined the comments rules, making clear that the council meeting was not a town hall meeting and would be governed by rules of order. I found it a bit odd. Since Anderson County Council does not have town hall meetings, the citizens comments time is only time citizens can put public comments to council members face to face. Such a handling of citizen's comments might be the legal manner to handle them, but it is not politically astute. It also denies the use of the "safety valve release " of free speech Justice Holmes wrote about. To Chairman Thompson's credit, he did not enforce the rules with a heavy hand.
Bill McAbee fired back at Cindy Wilson and her supporters with both of his political guns via a presentation that was meant to lead one to believe that Ms. Wilson used her quest for county government information to help her family negotiate for higher prices from the county for a sewer line easement.
I do not know if that is true or not. No one knows another's heart. But, the statistics were impressive. More money per acre was paid out to Wilson's family members than others. Now, that could be because of the information Ms.Wilson obtained or it could be Ms. Wilson's family are just sharper at negotiating.
Two things did stand out to me about the presentation. First, it is clear that Wilson's family, for all Wilson's concerns about the taxpayer, got more money per acre from the taxpayers than others. To be fair, Ms. Wilson can not control her family. However, one can be assured that if Mr. McAbee, or Ms. Floyd, or any other member of the council had such a thing happen in regards to their family, Ms. Wilson would grab the nearest microphone and shout out about her concern for the taxpayers.
The second thing that stood out about the presentation was the lack of outrage and indignation from Ms. Wilson. When it came her time to speak, I expected the anger that comes when someone is wrongly accused. Instead Ms. Wilson stumbled over her remarks at first, rambling on about how she could not get information from County Administrator Joey Preston. She basically ended up saying something like she would be willing to be investigated if everyone else would be investigated. It reminded me of Nick Theodore's gaffe in the 1994 Gubernatorial debate when you told David Beasley, "I'll stop lying about you, buddy, when you stop lying about me."
Contrast Ms. Wilson's remarks to that of Ron Wilson. (Yes, longtime readers, that Ron Wilson.) Mr. Wilson angrily responded to an accusation about a meal on a county credit card he attended in Alabama when Mr. Wilson was working to recruit the SCV convention to Anderson. Mr. Wilson promptly said he was paying for the meal and is going to write a check to the county for it. Then, he dropped what might be the public bombshell of the night. Mr. Wilson contended there is a legal fund that assists Ms. Wilson in her cases against the county. He noted that he once contributed $1000 to it, and asked whether there was full disclosure on who gave to that fund. Ms. Wilson again sat without expression.
While it is very likely Mr. Thompson would not have allowed Ms. Wilson to continue, she at least could have shown some sort of outrage at the suggestion that she was being unduly influenced. Indeed, people and members of council showed much more indignation about what the city of Anderson water system charges non city residents in the county than Ms. Wilson did to attacks upon her honor and dedication to the taxpayers.
Mr. McAbee's presentation and Mr. Wilson's assertion will likely be challenged and they will likely face a similar presentation. Larry Greer's voiced hope about the council, six to one Republican, stopping biting themselves is not likely to happen any time soon.
A Republican civil war was declared Tuesday night in Anderson County. I am not sure I would have made that call. It has been under the surface for years, but Tuesday night, one side went politically nuclear. As with any war, a political war is a dangerous thing, there is no telling what will happen next.
I am disappointed to find my home county in such a state. I take comfort, though, that at least no one pulled out their knives, like a member of the Allendale County school board allegedly did twelve years ago. But, just in case, I understand metal detectors at the meeting are on the way.