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Oh S. C. naughty as she wants to be: A Tale of Corruption, Schemes, Lawsuits, and Poverty

Oh S. C. naughty as she wants to be: A Tale of Corruption, Schemes, Lawsuits, and Poverty

By Natasha Dowdy Gordon

What in the world is going on in the state of South Carolina, and why should you care? Well if the Attorney General in the state of South Carolina is allowed to do whatever he wants, and to whomever he wants, and you happen to live in a state that is currently operating underneath the rule of a Republican run legislature, any and everything happening in the state of South Carolina could soon be happening to you, or someone you know in your state. By the way, the Attorney General of South Carolina is also the son of Joe Wilson, the only person in the history of the United States of America to yell “You Lie!” during a presidential address to the nation.

If there is one thing that anyone with eyes can see, is that almost immediately after the 2010 elections were over and the tsunami of Republican and Tea Party elected officials took over state legislatures and local governments all over the country, we have seen a subtle, well actually not so subtle shift in this country where local democracies are being turned into dictatorships, as Emergency Mangers are being appointed by Republican Governors, and these unelected officials replace the elected City Council, and that would include the whole body, including the Mayor, school board members, and any other elected official. The officials elected by the people still have a title, but that is all that they have, as any official decision, or any essence of power belongs to the Emergency Manager, who by the way can make the decision regarding land acquisition, the distribution of funds, and what schools should remain open.

Considering the fact that the United States is supposed to be a democracy, there are throngs of people all over the country that are very concerned about the trends that they are seeing in states and local municipalities all over the country, as the will of the people, and the best interest of the people seem to be of little to no concern to the people in political power. What is even more disconcerting is that when the powers to be are questioned about their tactics or their motives, instead of operating within an aura of transparence, they become defensive and vindictive, and take aim at the person or the persons directing the questions towards them.

There are people around the country who are finally taking a stand against the political bullies who believe that they have the power and the might to do any and everything that they set their minds to, and with taxpayer money to boot. The people of Timmonsville, S.C. are beginning to wonder if they will be the next town to fall prey to the Republican strategy of bankrupt and takeover, as many feel that the town has been the victim of a string of lawsuits that were all generated out of the S.C. Attorney General’s Office in an effort to keep local officials embroiled in extensive, and what appears to be endless litigation.

The general consensus among the town’s people is that there is a plan to strip the town of Timmonsville of all of its resources, and drive it into bankruptcy, because the political structure in the capitol city of Columbia, is working in conjunction with several elected officials in Florence, South Carolina, to dissolve the town of Timmonsville into the city of Florence. Timmonsville is a part of Florence County and currently the town’s law enforcement services are provided by the Florence County Sheriff’s Department, and water services are provided by the city of Florence as well.

Eyebrows are beginning to be raised around the state of South Carolina, and also around the country as more and more folks are beginning to hear about the relentless attack of a woman by the name of Wilhelmina Washington. People are having a very difficult time grasping their heads around the fact that South Carolina’s Attorney general has decided to try Ms. Washington for the crimes of forgery and misconduct for a third time. Her two previous trials ended in hung juries. People are beginning to talk about what Attorney General Wilson is doing in regards to his relentless attacks on Ms. Washington on Facebook, and on Twitter. Mary Spring posted on Facebook, “Roscoe B. Fountain, the explanation of the AG’s Office that they believe she is guilty of the charges rings of “guilty until proven innocent.” It does seem that she is being needlessly and repeatedly prosecuted out of vengeance and not justice. Whatever the motivation of the AG’s Office, it does not bode well for ANY citizen to be hounded and repeatedly prosecuted by our state’s highest prosecutor to take the position that they will thumb their nose at the process and use their office to improve their conviction rate rather than ensure that justice prevails.”

We have been inundated here at the Westside Gazette with phone calls, emails, and even videos, of what is happing to people living in not just the town of Timmonsville, but Florence County at large. Because the volume of inquiry has been so large, we began working a story last week. We did call the Attorney General’s Office, and we did get to speak with his Communications Director, Mark Powell, who appeared to be somewhat cooperative until we questioned him in detail about the pursuit of Ms. Washington, and asked him if he really thought that a belief of guilt was enough to continue to try a person for a third time considering the fact that there had already been two hung juries, and also because the Attorney General believed that over 900 dead people had voted in South Carolina, and that was found to be a false statement. A very irritated Mark Powell, abruptly ended our communications with a series of, “No Comments.” We have since sent an inquiry in the form of an information request, to the South Carolina Budget and Control Board. We are awaiting a response.

Since then we have obtained a copy of a press release issued by the Mayor of the Town of Timmonsville, and in it he asks some very important questions, that we were hoping to clear up during our conversation with Mr. Powell. The people in the state of South Carolina feel that they deserve to know how their money is being spent, and how much of it is being spent in the pursuit of persons or things that are of no benefit to them, or to the greater good of the state. Read Mayor Darrick Jackson’s full press conference statement here.

I called this press conference today to let it be known that the response that was issued from the State Attorney General’s office, in an effort to address an information request sent by local media outlets in regards to its insistence on trying Wilhelmina Washington for a third time on charges of forgery and misconduct is not just unacceptable, but is an insult to every taxpayer in the state of South Carolina.  According to media reports, Mark Powell stated, “The Attorney General’s Office is moving forward with a third trial because we believe Ms. Washington is guilty of the crimes charged against her.” I have constituents that have asked, and keep asking me what exactly is the Attorney General and his staff founding their beliefs upon?

Here is something that every citizen in the state of South Carolina should really sit down and ask themselves after they set all of the partisan politics aside; just how reliable are the Attorney General’s beliefs? Let’s us all remember that on January 21, 2012, Attorney General Wilson made an appearance on the Fox News Network, and there he stated, and I quote,” We found that there were over 900 people who died and then subsequently voted. That number could be even higher than that.”

Now clearly the Attorney General believed that the deceased were voting in South Carolina at that time, otherwise, he would never had made such a claim. After a SLED investigation and numerous fact checks were conducted by a host of media outlets, including one done by the Washington Post, Attorney General Wilson’s belief was not only found to be inaccurate, but it was labeled a colossal distortion of the truth.

Additionally, in the media initiated information request, the Attorney General’s office was specifically asked how much the taxpayers of the state of South Carolina had spent to date trying and retrying Ms. Washington. The Attorney General’s office actually released a statement, perhaps after making the assumption that the taxpaying citizens in the state of South Carolina were either not politically sophisticated enough, or simply just not smart enough to know any better, saying that it doesn’t have any figures on cost relating to the two trials that been conducted in an effort to gain a conviction in the case of Wilhelmina Washington. Mr. Powell, Communications Director for the Attorney General’s office, went on to say, and I quote, “As for costs, with more than 7,000 active cases currently pending, the Attorney General’s Office simply doesn’t have the capabilities or the resources to determine the cost of individual cases.

The fact that the Attorney General’s office would release a statement that is frankly an insult to the intelligence of taxpaying citizens should be a caution to anyone, and here are the reasons why: Either the Attorney General’s office has openly admitted to not keeping an account of how it is actually spending taxpayer dollars because they have a specific agenda that the rest of us don’t know about, it is inept and is not capable of keeping track of what it spends, or it does not feel that it has to respond to the taxpayers of the state.

Since I have been the Mayor of the Town of Timmonsville, I have always tried to be as open with my constituents as possible. I want to remind people one of my first official acts as Mayor was to call for an audit of the town’s finances. The seeds of corruption that have grown a garden of weeds in the heart of Timmonsville were planted long before my administration came into power. I knew that I was inheriting a mess when I ran for my office, but I ran with the intent of righting the wrongs that had been committed against my constituents and my town over the years. Just as in the case of many other small towns in America, Timmonsville has had some financial problems, but I am proud to say that for the first time in a very long time, the town is operating in the black and not the red.

Now there are many that would like to turn what is happening to Ms. Washington into an issue to be divided by race, but what I and so many others are saying in this case, is that spending taxpayer dollars, and either not being able to, or refusing to account for the money that has been spent is a wrong that needs to be corrected, and doing so is not Black, it is not white, it is just the right thing to do. The state of South Carolina is a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities of people, and the differences among our people is what makes us unique, and special, however, there are still far too many people living here that have political clout and power that believe that our state is their playground, and that everyone else should follow and live by their rules. South Carolina belongs to all of us, not just a chosen few.

Last Friday morning, while many of you were sleeping in your beds, I met a busload of people at the Iron Skillet out off of I-95 in Florence. On that bus was the widow of Rev. James Orange, who was one of Dr. Kings Lieutenants, who later went on to help Cesar Chavez organize the United Farm Workers, fight apartheid in South Africa, and then later promote trade between the United States and South Africa. The Rev. Fred Taylor, another civil rights warrior was also on that bus along a host of other labor, political, and civil rights leaders that have shed blood sweat and tears in the pursuit of justice for all people. I was humbled because these historical figures took the time to let me know that they have been watching the town of Timmonsville, and the state of South Carolina at large. I was reminded that no man can be comfortable as long as those around him are uncomfortable. I was told that I was not alone, and that I needed to keep moving forward, and to remain true to my constituents, and to work as hard as I can for each and every one of them, and that is exactly what I intend to do.

Finally, I am going to challenge the media again, to continue to ask the tough questions. The taxpayers deserve to know how much they are paying for the Attorney General’s relentless pursuit of Ms. Washington, and they have a right to know why the conviction of this one woman is more important that the seniors that have been cut off of Meals on Wheels, or the children kicked out of Head Start. The Attorney General’s office should explain to the taxpayers of this state how the continued pursuit of a conviction in the case of Wilhelmina Washington will help them.




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