Everything’s happening at once in Columbia these days


For the second day in a row, The State had a rather extraordinary front page today, dominated by three stories that would have made strong lede stories on any ordinary day.

We’ve already talked about the dramatic happenings at the State House yesterday, so let’s deal with the other two:

The mayor and the (alleged) strippers — Well, we knew that at some point, someone involved in this highly complicated case was going to try to pull the mayor into it. But these particular allegations go beyond what I had expected. All of a sudden, there’s a sort of Bada-Bing element. Has anyone seen any comment from the mayor or his representatives? I ran into him and breakfast yesterday morning; if only I knew what would be said hours later, I could have asked him…

Continuing ramifications from Metts indictment — The interim sheriff’s first move was firing four of Metts’ top guys. Metts is scheduled to appear for arraignment on July 1. What next?

What next, indeed?

With all of this, the overrides of the governor’s vetoes practically went unnoticed…


79 thoughts on “Everything’s happening at once in Columbia these days

  1. Barry

    and we wonder why Greenville gets all the good publicity (or why city leaders here visit Greenville for pointers)

    It’s sad. I wonder what sort of language was being tossed around in the Benjamin household last night?

    Something tells me Judge Benjamin doesn’t appreciate being publically disrespected by her husband in the most public of ways.

    Heck, at least Mark Sanford was “in love.”

  2. Barry

    and no- so far he’s not talking- which is pretty strange given this news is 24 hours old now. It would have made more sense to release a late night statement last night and get the basics out of the way.

    I saw that WIS was still reaching out to him for comment and as of noon – he wasn’t responding- nor was his spokesperson.

    Apparently it’s taking him a long time to come up with something that he thinks some voters might believe.

    My person opinion is that the feds are taking the long way to shame him – because he’s a “friend” of the current presidential administration- so they have to tread carefully.

    1. Silence

      I’d agree with that assessment. My guess is that the feds will wait until they have something really iron-clad before they go public with any allegations or indictment against the mayor. They don’t have a 93% conviction rate for nothin’. Pretty soon we are going to need an organizational chart to keep up with all of the players and connections in this ring.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Taking an exotic dancer to one’s hotel room is not good, but also not illegal. They have to find something indictable, an admittedly low standard. Either this is a long game, or selective prosecution, as Kevin Fisher points out in the current Free Times.

        1. Silence

          I vote for long game. There’s too many “known” crimes that haven’t been indicted yet here.

        2. Kathryn Fenner

          I’m wondering if they are squeezing Pinson to get to Benjamin. Also what about Tony Lawton?

          1. Barry

            i realize the girl thing isn’t illegal.

            Don’t we all realize that? sort of goes without saying I think.

            But we all should know that since it’s clearly not illegal- one has to at least think -for the feds to pursue questioning that will include that information- that they are doing it for a reason- and it’s not just for fun.

          2. Kathryn Fenner

            My guess is that of the folks who won’t plead, Pinson is the strongest case. Settle him, and then you may have better leverage against the others.

  3. Doug Ross

    Assuming the testimony about the strippers is true, what next? Should we expect a tearful apology to “everyone I may have hurt” and a promise to “be a better man and father”? or is this just the first in a death by a thousand cuts for the Mayor?

    1. Silence

      What would be awesome, would be if a local news station tracked down the young ladies in question and interviewed them for TV.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      There have long been rumored to be more bimbo issues. I have heard so many secondhand reports, from a wide variety of people.

      1. Silence

        It makes me wonder if the rumors about The Mayor and the former Police Chief running around and partying at hotels with certain young ladies weren’t true…

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          I am inclined to believe them. The former police chief reportedly rolled into Jaco’s late one night last fall… highly intoxicated.

          1. Barry

            wow- but not shocking.

            Lots of smoke – at least regarding the former police chief – all sorts of rumors about him- and others in Richland County. (Some not mentioned on here yet)

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Corey Hutchins commented on Facebook that the front page layout was a beaut, with the creepy, crawly banner over the top!

  5. Mark Stewart

    When do we get to see Metts in an orange prison smock for his LCSD mugshot pic? Have their “rules” just changed?

    I don’t really want to see it; I just always found that arrest policy a bit unconscionable – something about being innocent until proven guilty. But if the Sheriff held onto the policy, it would seem now is not the time for that particular change.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Oh I know the Feds don’t do such penny-ante things. Just a little mischievous humor…to make the point that LCSD really should retire the orange for arrests. It’s civically suspect as governmental policy.

  6. Clare Morris

    You just couldn’t make up the headlines on today’s State in any kind of way…

  7. Bryan Caskey

    So we’ve had a coup in the legislature, senior law enforcement officials arrested, and a mayor shamed. Feels like I’m living in Chicago.

  8. Rose

    They should put an image of Kyle Carpenter receiving the Medal of Honor on tomorrow’s front page, to 1) give an example of a true hero, and 2) to remind us of the price our young people have paid and are still paying in Afghanistan and Iraq. But most politicians really don’t care about that.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No, that’s where you’re wrong. Politicians DO care very much. I got bookend releases, almost back-to-back, from Joe Wilson and Jim Clyburn bragging on Cpl. Carpenter.

      And of course he was on the front page — not because politicians care, but because editors do…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        From Joe Wilson:

        Wilson: Kyle Carpenter Is A Testament to America’s Greatness

        (Washington, DC) – Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) released the following statement after attending Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter’s Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. On November 21, 2010, Corporal Carpenter of Gilbert, South Carolina, risked his life for a fellow Marine when he threw himself on a hand grenade while keeping watch on a rooftop in Afghanistan. He is the 8th living recipient to receive this most prestigious honor while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

        “Corporal Kyle Carpenter is a true testament to America’s greatness,” Congressman Joe Wilson stated. “I have had the distinct privilege of knowing Kyle for several years. From my first visit with him and his mother Robin at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, I was impressed by their determination. Kyle’s heroic actions convey true selflessness. Throughout his lengthy recovery, he has shown character and fearlessness, traits that embody the spirit of our great nation. Corporal Carpenter is without a doubt a deserving individual to receive our nation’s highest recognition of valor. He answered the call of duty and without hesitation, put himself in harm’s way to save a comrade’s life with the intention of preserving our freedoms. He embodies the New Greatest Generation.”

        *Earlier this year, Congressman Wilson awarded Corporal Kyle Carpenter with the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s Patriot Award. This Congressionally created nonprofit program honors a selected district veteran who has demonstrated valor in military service and a continued dedication to his or her fellow Americans after returning from service. The Patriot Award honors a “hometown hero” in hopes of demonstrating to youth that the ideas they read about in history books are, in reality, regular Americans who rose to the occasion – hopefully inspiring them to follow suit. Kyle is without a doubt a deserving recipient of this award.

        From Jim Clyburn:

        Congressman Clyburn Congratulates South Carolina’s Own,
        Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, on receiving the Medal of Honor

        (Columbia, SC) – House Assistant Democratic Leader and South Carolina Congressman James E. Clyburn offers a congratulations of immense magnitude to South Carolina’s native, Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, for being awarded the Medal of Honor today by President Barack Obama.

        Cpl. Carpenter will be the second living Marine to receive the Medal since the Vietnam War and the 30th South Carolinian ever to receive the honor. Cpl. Carpenter is being honored for his heroism during a Taliban attack on his squad in Afghanistan in November 2010; when a hand grenade was thrown onto the rooftop position of Cpl. Carpenter and a member of his fire team, Cpl. Carpenter rushed toward the grenade to shield his fellow Marine from the blast.

        “Congratulations to Cpl. Carpenter,” Congressman Jim Clyburn said. “The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor and Cpl. Carpenter’s heroic and selfless efforts to save his friend and fellow Marine demonstrated, unbelievable courage, and intrepidness. South Carolina is proud to call him a son and we look forward to the exceptional life and success that lie before him.”

        1. Doug Ross

          “Kyle Carpenter Is A Testament to America’s Greatness”

          Seriously? Kyle Carpenter is a testament to Kyle Carpenter’s greatness… I hate this jingoistic crap that politicians spew. America doesn’t have a monopoly on heroism…

      2. Barry

        Politicians care that we know how great they think it is more so than anything.

        I tend to think they prefer the front page themselves over anyone else.

  9. Burl Burlingame

    And I’m reminded of one of the dumbest things an editor ever said to me: “We need a sidebar on your ant story. Describe all 47 species of ants in Hawaii, give ways to deal with each species, tell where they came from and whether or not they are endemic or invasive. We need it in an hour. And keep it all under seven inches!”

  10. bud

    Ranking the items on the front page based on what affects people the most:

    1. The Creepy Crawlies
    2. USCs year in review
    3. New Sheriff fires 4
    4. Benjamin and the strippers
    5. New Senate Leader Accused of coup.

    We will all face bugs so that is important to everyone. Ok, so the USC story only matters to sports fans but it really is pretty important for those of us who can’t get enough Gamecock sports. The big sheriff story was Tuesday and Wednesday so this is mostly expected. Not sure how the Benjamin story means much at this point. After all his much bigger transgression, the wreck on election night, didn’t seem to have much long term effect. As for the coup, I just can’t get excited about this at all. The general assembly is such a good ole boy system does it really matter who’s in leadership position?

  11. Burl Burlingame

    The mayor should be pro-active: “Yeah, we took strippers back to our hotel room … but you should have seen these babes! They were awesome! And reasonably priced. Look, I’ve got pictures on my phone … check out the bodacious ta-tas on this one! Man! You shouldda been there!”

  12. bud

    People don’t often get too excited about a sex story UNLESS the perpetrator lies about it. That’s what go Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner in so much trouble.

  13. Doug Ross

    Here’s a perfect example of the lack of government accountability that leads to all the corruption.. because it’s other people’s money, the level of oversight that should be in place just doesn’t happen. So you give a million dollars to someone for “economic development” and simply hope they use the money as it was intended.

    From The State:

    A state-supported program to subsidize businesses that are expanding or moving into South Carolina has so little oversight in funneling large grants to businesses that it’s easy for cheaters to skim money, a S.C. Department of Commerce staff attorney testified Thursday.

    Cynthia Turnipseed, who helps oversee grant distribution at the Commerce Department, testified her department has a lack of staff to scrutinize grant disbursements, making it easy for cheaters to do things such as make up phoney (sic) invoices for work that was never done.

    Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/06/19/3518468/trial-witness-former-sc-state.html?sp=/99/205/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      They are seriously short staffed. As is most government. If you have lots of money to hand out, you need to supervise it!

      1. Karen Pearson

        Once again, you get what you pay for, Failing to fund government sufficiently does not improve efficiency. It ensures inadequate implementation and oversight.

        1. Doug Ross

          They shouldn’t be handing out money if they can’t track it. Don’t complain after the money is stolen that you couldn’t afford a lock.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Look Doug, the program to hand out money isn’t being funded well enough. We need to hire more people to supervise the giving away of money. All government incompetence can be cured by simply spending more money.

            The IRS “lost” Lois Lerner’s e-mails (along with six other people) who were all targeting taxpayers? It’s only because they didn’t have proper funding. Obvious solution is to spend more money on the IRS. We should be increasing their budgets.

            The VA has secret waiting lists? It’s not because of incompetence, a bad system, or bad intent. They just need more money. Simple.

            In related news, people who get multiple DUIs aren’t doing it out of any negligence or incompetence. They just need more funding to hire a chauffeur around the clock.

            C’mon Doug!

            1. Doug Ross

              Exactly, Bryan. Nevermind that the IRS sends out BILLIONS in refunds to scammers. Seriously, I could stop so many of those cases in about two days of time with access to the database of the refunds paid and the names and addresses of the recipients. Just give me 1% of the fraud I identify…

            2. bud

              The part of the IRS story that is so often overlooked is the fact that the groups the IRS was investigating were breaking the law. You can’t claim to be a charitable organization for tax purposes when you’re not charitable. And folks have a problem with investigating these outfits?

            1. Doug Ross

              No, they should use some of whatever amount of the money they are funded with to properly staff the organization. Instead of giving out millions, take whatever is needed upfront to do it right. Same amount of money, a little more overhead, less corruption. It’s like a business would do it.

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              Not a lot of press opportunities to announce new jobs in the hundreds, when you just fund your staff appropriately….

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I am so unbelievably tired of that “other people’s money” phrase, for four reasons:

      1. I’ve just read it so many times. Even if I LIKED the phrase, it would have gotten old by now.

      2. It is always used to imply that people don’t care what they do with it, because it’s not their money. I am MORE careful with “other people’s money” than with my own. Partly because it’s the right thing to do, and partly because I dread the idea of even being accused by anyone of not handling it exactly right. With my own money, I can relax, on the rare occasions that I have any.

      3. It’s always used to refer to public money (somehow, I never see the phrase with regard to what banks or other private entities do with “other people’s money”). Which, of course, means that it’s not “other people’s,” it’s ours. If it’s been duly, legally collected via taxes, it belongs to all of us, including the people handling it, unless they are not citizens.

      4. The suggestion that there’s something unsavory about the public officials handling the money having their hands on it to begin with. Whereas that happens to be their job, if they have been duly elected or appointed to deal with our public funds. If they do something with the money other than what they were elected or appointed to do, they should be held accountable. But there’s nothing unseemly about their having the funds in their hands to start with.

      1. Doug Ross

        The reality contradicts your perception. When people do not have a direct responsibility or ownership of the money, they are naturally less inclined to be diligent in protecting it. This is why government contracts are loaded with $500 hammers… why government workers go on boondoggles to the beach. They are spending other people’s money and don’t care.

        It’s sort of like when you go to an all-you-can-eat buffet. How much food is wasted and left on the plate in those establishments?

        1. scout

          “The reality contradicts your perception.”

          Maybe the reality contradicts your perception.

          Your position that waste and inefficiency only happen in the public sector is just a perception too.

          We don’t know what the reality is.

          It could well be that you are merely more aware of it when it happens in the public sector.

          Determining the reality of the level of waste and inefficiency in public and private sectors may be a hard thing to do, since private entities are usually under less of an obligation to provide data.

          But for sure, your or my perceptions are just that – perceptions.

          There is something that you did in this post that bothers me. You did it twice,
          ” When people do not have a direct responsibility or ownership of the money, they are naturally less inclined to be diligent in protecting it.”
          and here:
          ” They are spending other people’s money and don’t care.”

          Even though you are not inside their heads and know their motivations, even though Brad, for example told you specifically that for him such a motivation would not apply, even though common sense tells us that people are individuals and have multiple and varied motivations in any given situation, you still insist on generalizing that “they are naturally less inclined to be diligent in protecting it.” and also that they “don’t care.”

          It seems like you find it hard to accept that other people’s behaviors and motivations might be different than yours in any given situation. I really don’t think you (or any of us, for that matter) can really know why anybody does something or how they feel. We are not inside their heads.

          Also, I’m not sure that any more food is wasted at buffets than at regular restaurants. I think it’s easy to have that perception though.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        The 4 Ways Of Spending Money:

        1) Spend your own money on yourself.
        2) Spend your own money on somebody else.
        3) Spend somebody else’s money on yourself.
        4) Spend somebody else’s money on somebody else.

        I could explain, but go listen to Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman say it better.

      3. bud

        Good points Brad. As a public employee it’s insulting, downright offensive really to suggest government employees don’t give a damn about the taxpayers money. After going to the phone store over the last few days I can assure you the greed and attitude of paid-by-commission employees of a megabucks corporation is far greater than anything I see on a daily basis in the government. So lets stop picking on the government and work on ways to make hard working government employees jobs a little easier.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          I’m not limiting my points to government. It’s human nature.

          It just so happens that government is one of the examples of people spending someone else’s money on someone else. One thing that always surprises me about bud is his absolute conviction that greedy oligarchs are acting out of self-interest, while government agents/employees are acting out of solely pure motives at all times. Bud is always highly suspicious/skeptical of people in private companies, but that suspicion evaporates once we turn to people who work in the public sector.

          To put it more eloquently:

          If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. (Stuff James Madison Said, Vol. 2)

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Would you like an example of what I’m talking about? Ok, how about something from…oh….say….today.

            Every top manager of the Department of Veterans Affairs received a positive performance evaluation for the past four years. and 78 percent got a bonus in 2013.

            That’s not even the best part. Wait for it…

            Agency executives write their own performance evaluations, which seem to receive only cursory reviews from their supervisors, several committee members said in questioning the VA’s top personnel officer.

            I have conducted a performance review of my commenting here, and I have determined that my comments consistently exceed all expectations that I have of myself. I have surprised myself with my wit and wisdom at every turn. My comments are nothing short of exemplary, by which, I mean I have commented whenever I felt like it and sometimes, incredibly, I have commented even when I didn’t feel like it.

            But these guys just need more money. That’ll fix it!

          2. bud

            Very nice quote.

            I’m not suggesting that government employees are totally dedicated, hard working, selfless public servants 100% of the time but most of the folks I’ve worked with over the years do make an honest attempt to provide good service to the people they work for, the taxpayers. Granted issues crop up and yes waste does occur. But in the main state workers do an admirable job.

            But many of the examples that are cited so often to demonstrate the failures of government just don’t hold up in the real world. Take the post office. They were the only package delivery service that did not have serious problems getting it’s deliveries to customers before Christmas this past year. Another example is the DMV. Years ago it was indeed a nightmare to visit a DMV office but the last few visits I’ve made there have gone remarkably smoothly. You take a number, have a seat and then go to the next available window. Compare that to Walmart where it’s pot luck whether you get in the best line.

  14. Phillip

    Columbia, SC: The Providence RI of the South? …only without all the great Italian restaurants.

        1. Mark Stewart

          It was really good; a recommendable spot. And just like in the South the neighborhood retail strip was restaurant, bar, tattoo parlor – repeat. For several blocks long. I just had the food…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            My favorite strip is the one on 378 in West Cola, with a jewelers, a wedding planning place and Shooter’s Choice. Sort of a country music song in a mall!

  15. Doug Ross

    The next shoe has dropped on Mayor Benjamin. $50K payment from Rivers Edge AFTER he declared his candidacy for mayor.

    I think a quick check of his tax return for 2010 would be in order.

        1. Mark Stewart

          I would like to see how people who used all public money to finance a development project valued the Mayor’s “stake” at $492k. Just before the project cratered, no less.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            It didn’t crater. The public housing part was built by others. I agree that the valuation is highly suspect, but I have a hard time twisting it into a crime. It appears that the partners bought him out, possibly using public funds, but remaining on the hook themselves.

            1. Mark Stewart

              So the Mayor received a highly suspect partnership valuation for a project which ended up being half built by others (because the thefts bled the development dry) and half (the private pay part) to this day unbuilt from people who are about to be convicted of fraud and public corruption and everything is legit here?

  16. bud

    Today’s State provides 2 headlines that Doug and I can probably agree reflect very badly on state government. The first one is for an article about the 3.2% tuition increase at USC. Combine that with the second headline about a $50k pay increase for AD Ray Tanner. There’s no bigger fan of Ray Tanner than bud, but seriously $725k for the athletic directer at a time when so many students and their families are sinking $tens of K into college tuition every year? Oh the humanity of it all.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Tuition has tripled since 2000! Some may be amenity creep and some attributable to legislative funding cuts, but none to faculty salaries. My guess is administration!
      Ray Tanner is paid by the self-sustaining athletics department, I believe.

      1. Silence

        I think it’s worth noting how much tuition has gone up since we passed the “Lottery for Education” in SC.

        1. Doug Ross

          Part of it is due to the transition from a “college education” to a “college experience” complete with all sorts of amenities.

          1. Silence

            That may well be the case. The amenities and standards are a lot nicer than when I went to school. I lived in un-air conditioned dorms, had classrooms with plain old chalkboards, didn’t have a fancy gym, etc.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Kids want what they want, and don’t realize the cost! Still, there are an awful lot of highly paid administrators….

Comments are closed.