CPD Chief Scott quits; explanation hard to fathom

wistv.com – Columbia, South Carolina |

Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott announced today he was quitting for good, effective May 1. But the statement he read doesn’t clear up what happened, at least in this account at thestate.com:

City Manager Teresa Wilson said during the news conference that Scott has been diagnosed with PTSD.

Scott, at times tearing up as a read from the statement, spoke of the affect the 2005 death of Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Cannon had on him. Scott said he hired Cannon when he worked at the Sheriff’s Department.

Scott said it’s important for him to take this time off, but he doesn’t want his struggles to detract from the police department’s work.

“I beg of you,” Scott said, “let me complete what I’ve started. Once I complete, I will come back and I will detail it for you.”

Anything short of a fuller explanation to the public would be “selfish,” he added.

A fuller explanation would indeed be helpful.

I can see that he’s a troubled man, but I have trouble understanding what he’s telling us. Maybe it’s just that I don’t understand PTSD well enough. Watch the raw video above, from WIS, and see what you think.

52 thoughts on “CPD Chief Scott quits; explanation hard to fathom

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’m still listening to the video, and I’m still in the dark.

    I don’t wish to be insensitive, but I’m reminded of Mark Sanford’s confessional press conference in June 2009. The similarity lies in the rambling, disconnected nature of the statement. Sanford, who was speaking extemporaneously, rambled more. But when he was done, I had a clearer idea what had happened than I do in this instance.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I still haven’t seen the resignation letter to which the city manager alludes. Perhaps it will clarify things somewhat.

    One thing that is crystal clear is that the city of Columbia has to get a grip on the police department. When Scott took the job, he was the sixth chief in seven years.

    Of course, I think the problem is bigger than the job of police chief. We need a full-time strong mayor, someone we can hold politically accountable for running the city.

    This press conference illustrates the problem. The person in charge is the young woman whom the city hardly knows, and who was not elected. The mayor’s role is subordinate, and that reflects the reality of the form of government we have. The mayor, being the best speaker in the bunch, is able to defend the job the police department has done in strong terms. But it’s like a talking head commenting on something in which he is not involved. He’s not in charge. He’s just there representing the city manager’s seven bosses.

  3. Mark Stewart

    It’s like this from my layperson’s perspective: Most people would be diagnosed with PTSD after i) being arrested for some kind of violent break, AND ii) having a sudden and sustained issue with the abuse of alcohol and/or drugs, usually involving arrests, accidents, etc., AND III) crashing one’s career and marriage, AND if) causing significant and sustained concern of a spouse, children, employer and friends.

    For the Chief of Police of Columbia, however, you get an sweetheart deal to retire early (with benefits unavailable to any other government employee) and with a guaranteed rehire, complete suppression of the problems that have occurred once things get out of hand and a pass on confronting the situation.

    What a crock.

    Look, I am sympathetic of the guy as a human being. I am not looking to blast his personal failings and problems. That said, the double standards and inside deals clearly evident in his situation are nauseous. Was this instability evident last fall when the City authorized enabling him access to an early retirement? Where they really trying to get him in the system before he blew up in a public way, and hoping that he would pull out of his well-covered tailspin? The impression conveyed is clearly one of a cover-up – and I am not normally the conspiracy theory type.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      You can most definitely get PTSD from any number of lesser events. His second marriage crashed as of January, and now his career. He is in counseling. I dare say his counselor is better qualified to diagnose.

      It is a career buster to say he has PTSD. Why not assume it is true?

      1. Steven Davis II

        So anyone who’s been divorced and lost his job now qualifies for PTSD? Might as well sign him up for SSI Disability as well… since it’s all free money.

        If he is diagnosed with PTSD, should he be able to keep and own weapons of any kind?

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          No, having PTSD qualifies one as having it. People react differently. He has no incentive to lie about this. Quite the opposite.

          1. Steven Davis II

            What? “Having PTSD qualifies one as having it”… is that some sort of lawyer speak?

            Randy Scott does not have PTSD, PTSD doesn’t appear at the flip of a switch. It is one thing… an excuse.

      2. Silence

        having a college co-ed girlfriend (allegedly) goes a long way towards busting up a marriage. It also goes a long way towards getting over your marriage crashing, I’ll bet.

  4. Doug Ross

    So did the PTSD symptoms mainfest themselves between January and April? And is he going on disability now?

    1. Mark Stewart

      Would you expect any less from him – and the City? Maybe it’s that his problems mushroomed out of control once he had lot’s of extra cash and hubris…

    2. Steven Davis II

      Exactly what I was thinking, he was fit enough for the city to hire him back three months ago. What traumatic experience has he endured since January? This just a BS excuse, he got caught… whether it be personally or professionally, he got caught and now he’s stressed out over it. Sadly this is, regardless of what Kathryn tells us, is the state of the city of Columbia.

  5. Doug Ross

    One just needs to look at the rumored activities mentioned on FITSnews to get an understanding of what may have led to the downfall.

      1. Mark Stewart

        But it’s like in astrophysics; we can clearly discern and weigh that which we cannot see directly.

        Brad, you said the problem is that the city has had six chiefs in seven years. That isn’t the problem as you also stated; it’s the structure of Columbia’s city government that is.

        City manager / weak mayor is an appropriate structure for Po-dunk towns, not major metropolitan core cities. No strong mayor would have let this sorry situation reach the lows that it has.

    1. Silence

      I don’t give any creedence to the rumours on FITS about either the Mayor or the soon to be ex-Police Chief. However, I do think that the whole PTSD thing is a load of bullcrap in this case. The Cheif and the city are just using PTSD as a way to let him step down honorably, and as a way to whitewash whatever the real story is here. Hopefully someone will leak the truth about the retirement payoff and the ensuing ridiculousness. While I’d like to respect the Chief’s privacy, I feel that we (city taxpayers and others who depend on the Columbia PD) deserve the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  6. Carolina Yankee

    I’m perplexed by you being so perplexed. I don’t think it’s at all unusual for safety officers to push down their emotions and get on with the job. The high rate of divorce and alcoholism among safety officers is one indication of how difficult it is to cope with the things they deal with on a daily basis, never mind a trauma. Chief Scott is ambitious and apparently let his ambition override his need to grieve, or cope in some way. He was very clear that his intention is to show other safety officers that there’s no shame in dealing with emotional stress and let the people of Columbia see what that sort of stress can do to the officer who protect and assist them every day. He should be commended for sharing his reason for leaving honestly, regardless of his lack of eloquence or unwillingness to go into detail. He’s never been a polished public speaker but I’ve always believed his desire to serve respectably and honorably has been sincere. It’s obvious he feels he cannot give the city his best while dealing with this personal issue. Mark Sanford, on the other hand, is is a very polished public figure with no integrity whatsoever.

    As for the CPD and the management of the City of Columbia, I agree with you 100%. The city manager position carries too much weight and the citizens have no say in who is running their town.

  7. Silence

    Let’s talk about something that does make sense. Watching The Wizard of Oz on TCM, and they just did the “Lullaby League” scene. Where did they find midgets who can dance en pointe?

  8. bud

    Wasn’t it obvious, Chief Scott was trying to find Waldo.

    I still haven’t heard a good reason why he’s not retiring immediately. He’s clearly not capable of performing his duties. Don’t the taxpayers deserve to be relieved of that small financial burden?

    1. Steven Davis II

      From what I’ve been reading, Chief Scott is doing a wonderful job and the city’s police department has never been in better shape. Here friend have some Kool-Aid.

    2. Mark Stewart

      Bud, really? You don’t know why he isn’t retiring now?

      It couldn’t be that on May 1st he will “earn” his next months salary and whatever other benefits he feels entitled to receiving?

      Everything this guy – he isn’t the chief now – has taken / been given has made a total mockery of the citizens, the Cola political leadership, all honorable and hard working civil servants and every retiree who has earned a government pension. In short, his histrionics are an insult to everyone.

      And yet there he remains, swilling at the trough. Why he wasn’t fired when the firing was good is strike one against the new city manager. This is Columbia, she is going to be presented with unbelievable situations everyday; she is going to have to learn, quickly, that being strong and doing right are the only paths to take.

      It only seems expediant to play the games the council, especially, will want her to play. But corruption is not a leadership strategy. It’s easy (ier) for a time, but the piper always must be paid – and she’ll need to have earned to right to future employment elsewhere. I hope she remembers that her career reputation and integrity are what she needs to remain focused on as this experience in cola is but the beginning of her profesional life.

  9. bud

    From Chief Scott’s perspective that makes some sense. But why retire at all then? Just continue with this self-imposed pity party and continue to draw a paycheck? His superiors really are not stepping up to the plate on this entire matter.

    1. Mark Stewart

      No they are not. They are focused on purchasing the City of Columbia into the folly of the Palmetto Compress building for far more than it is worth – problem one – and with no possible way to do anything other than loose millions of dollars if they able to find someone to take it off the public’s hands – problem two – and doing so using inappropriate funding mechanisms that actually make Randy Scott look civic minded – problem three.

      But I guess in an hour the Council will have concluded the idiocracy that will see several shuffled out the door next elections (I suspect). It’s hard to see the impending disaster for most when so many people are cheering this on; but it will end badly for Columbia. Yet another scandel in such a long line of errors. But more than that, more than just being a judgment error, this one also feels corrupt.

      1. Doug Ross

        And how can there be such a coverup of the $52K retirement buyout? There has to be a full accounting of who made the decision to pursue that and the rationale for doing so. Also whether Chief Scott must pay the money back.

        The evasiveness of the Council, Ms. Wilson, and the Mayor looks bad. But that’s been standard operating procedure for quite a while.

        1. Steven Davis II

          Or as the security guard outside the city council chambers states, “All is well, remain calm”.

    1. Doug Ross

      Gimme an “S”… gimme a “T”… gimme an “F”… gimme a “U”… “what’s that spell?”

  10. Doug Ross

    Kevin Fisher from the Free Times captures the state of local government perfectly:

    “We have Mayor Steve Benjamin running circles around himself in the save it/tear it down/save it/buy it/flip it/use this money/borrow that money/please everyone/please no one/please like me approach to the Palmetto Compress issue.

    Before that, we had City Council embarrass itself with the lower the qualifications/raise the salary/under the radar/shut out the public/special-called meeting/two days after Christmas/no questions asked/no questions allowed hiring of Teresa Wilson as city manager.

    And now we have Wilson, Benjamin and Council as a whole all participating in the sham/shame/rumors/secrets/no information for citizens/salary funded by taxpayers/no details/no time frame leave of absence for Police Chief Randy Scott.”

  11. Libb

    I read a comment elsewhere that alluded even the brightest of legal minds can’t sort out who owns what part(s) of the warehouse/lot…too many shells that shield a who’s who list of movers/shakers (could be that even the mayor owns a few shares). Does anyone know who owns Palmetto Compress and thereby stands to benefit from MY City’s generous bestowal of corporate welfare?

    1. Steven Davis II

      Just look at anyone in the Midlands with a powerful last name. I know Lumpkin is one.

    2. Silence

      Richland County shows that Palmetto Preservation Corp. bought the building in 1986 for $1.8M.
      According to the SC Secretary of State’s office, it’s a domestic (SC) corporation in good standing. The registered agent is John W. Currie. The agent used to be John H. Lumpkin Jr. Currie’s been indentified in the news as one of the owners.

      Other names associated with the corporation include: John McNair, Glenda Davis, Donald Babb, Clarence Steele, John Currie, Wilbur Smith and Harry A. Swagart

      1. Steven Davis II

        $7.2 million for a building that was purchased a few years ago for $1.8 million. Not a bad profit for a piece of land that no developer apparently wants. What is the city going to do with it, besides sit on it for another decade and sell it at a loss. Has there been a professional appraisal of the property? Or did the city just decide that $7.2 million among friends sounds like a good number.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    Okay, so Silence lives in the city, and possibly bud. The rest of you all who have commented above do not. You do not deal with the issues we deal with. You have no first hand experience of any of our police chiefs. We do, and Randy was one of the very best.

    1. Mark Stewart

      That, Kathryn, says absolutely nothing about quality, professionalism or service. That belief may, however, speak volumes about the political “leadership” Columbia has had to endure for decades.

    2. Steven Davis II

      So our comments don’t count. Just because we live across the river doesn’t mean that what happens in Columbia stays in Columbia.

      If Randy was one of the best, Columbia has had some extremely horrible Chiefs of Police.

      What do you feel about Burl’s comments about situations that only pertain to people living in South Carolina?

    3. Libb

      For the record I have lived in the city of Columbia for 30+ years.

      Columbia is also the capital city of this state and anything that happens here can reflect (good or bad) on the image of SC. It is my belief that all citizens of SC have the right to comment on what Cola “leadership” does.

  13. Steven Davis II

    Lott just stated on WIS that Scott has a job at Richland County if he wants it… unbelievable. Lott is proving to be more ignorant than Scott, if he’s willing to take him back.

      1. Steven Davis II

        Maybe he’ll be put in charge of watching Lillian McBride count voting machines… Sr. Election Commission Security Chief, salary range $80,000 – $140,000.

  14. kc

    Boy, the definition of PTSD sure has been . . . broadened. It used to refer to the attacks of panic and terror that recurred after a life threatening event.

    Now apparently it means anything that harshes your mellow.

  15. bud

    Kathryn, for the record I live in Lexington but my mother lives in the city limits of Columbia.

  16. Steven Davis II

    WIS is reporting what I thought, as long as you’re employed by an agency that is a member of the state retirement system, there would be no loss of service or benefits if you transferred between agencies. So what Teresa Wilson is telling us is pure BS. Both Richland County and the City of Columbia are members of the SC Retirement System. Randy Scott would have lost no time, no more than when he was promoted through the sheriff’s department. This was an unethical payout to Scott so he could buy time that he could not afford to purchase himself. Scott should be required to reimburse the city of Columbia, or have his purchase time removed and the money returned to the city. Someone should be fired for this cover-up. But this is SC government, and it’ll be swept under the rug just like the Lexington Ring fiasco.

  17. Doug Ross

    Ha… apparently Randy Scott’s PTSD was bad enough to prevent him from going back to work for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Your government at work…

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Well, he’s trying to work, rather than be on disability. It is a low level job, not chief of police! Lots less stress!

        1. Doug Ross

          I thought the stress was caused by the death of a policeman back in 2005? Did that go away this week?

          1. Steven Davis II

            It depends on how much they offered him to come to work? Not enough, “oh damn this disabilitating stress”… enough, “I’m okay, just a temporary thing”.

        2. Steven Davis II

          Since when is a policeman a stress free job? Just what Richland County needs, a professionally diagnosed PTSD patient with a badge and a gun… what could go wrong? Lott just lost a lot of support with this announcement.

  18. Doug Ross

    Wonder when we will hear anything about the $52K buyout? Does he have to pay it back or not?

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