Category Archives: This just in…

U.S., Britain and France strike targets in Syria

trump announce

Trump just did his announcement, so I thought I’d put this up so you can have a place to discuss it.

Here’s the news:

President Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.

The coordinated strike marked the second time in a year that Trump has used force against Assad, who U.S. officials believe has continued to test the West’s willingness to accept gruesome chemical attacks.

Trump announced the strikes in an address to the nation Friday evening. He said, “The purpose of our action tonight is to establish a strong deterrent” against the production and use of chemical weapons, describing the issue as vital to national security. Trump added that the U.S. is prepared “to sustain this response” until its aims are met.

Trump asked both Russia and Iran, both Assad backers, “what kind of nation wants to be associated” with mass murder and suggested that some day the U.S. might be able to g”et along” with both if they change their policies….

I was curious to see what the leaders of Britain and France had to say about this. But when I go to British and French newspaper sites, it’s all about what Trump said (“Donald Trump annonce des frappes contre la Syrie, en coordination avec Paris et Londres“), not Theresa May or Emmanuel Macron. It’s like their involvement doesn’t matter, and they don’t feel obliged to explain it to their people — leave it to Trump. Is that the normal pattern?

SCE&G backs off plan to charge ratepayers for abandoned nuclear project


EDITOR’S NOTE: Sheesh. Earlier, I had a headline that said, “Never mind: SCE&G drops request to abandon nuclear project.” That was from a report at That is no longer the operative statement, as Ron Ziegler would say. This is the operative statement:

SCE&G backs off plan that could hit customers for costs of failed nuclear plant

Still an important story, but not nearly as important as initially reported.


‘Weekend of Terror’


Did you know that was a thing? There was a cheesy made-for-TV movie by that name in 1970, one so low-profile that there are no surviving promotional materials for me to grab an image of. Just that stultifyingly uninteresting title screen above. (Back in 1970, the third-string cinematographers who made these things didn’t even try to make anything look interesting.)

In a way, the scattering of terror incidents in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota over the weekend are sort of the real-life terror equivalent. Nobody killed, thank God. Low-impact, low-budget. Forgettable imagery.

Earlier today, I told Bryan I didn’t see any points I wanted to raise editorially — there seemed to be little to say about such attacks in a political sense, since presumably everyone on the blog is opposed to them.

But The Wall Street Journal managed to find an angle. Under the headline, “Another Bomb After a Weekend of Terror,” there was the subhed, “Plus, more Clinton email revelations.”

Really. Neither I nor Dave Barry is making this up, even though it sounds like satire.

In the Journal‘s defense, that headline was on an editorial roundup. Still, the juxtaposition was a bit jarring. Meanwhile, not to be outdone, a site called Townhall sported this headline: “12 Hours of Terror: Just Another Weekend in Leftist-run America.”


But back to the news…

The BBC summed it all up this way:

On Saturday morning, a pipe bomb exploded on the route of a charity race in New Jersey. Nobody was hurt, because the road was empty at the time. The race had been delayed due to an unattended bag. The event, which was planned to raise money for Marines and sailors, was cancelled.

That evening, a man dressed in a security uniform stabbed eight people in a shopping centre in a town in Minnesota. They all survived and none of their injuries are life-threatening. The attacker was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. It happened in St Cloud, 70 miles (110km) from the major city of Minneapolis. The town’s police chief said the man had asked at least one person if they were Muslim. It is thought he was Somali-American.

At roughly the same time, more than 1,200 miles (1,900km) away in Manhattan, New York, a pressure cooker filled with shrapnel exploded. It happened in the Chelsea area where there is a bustling nightlife, and 29 people were injured. All were released from hospital by Sunday. The same kind of bomb had been used in the Boston marathon attack in 2013.

A second, similar, bomb found four blocks away was removed safely.

Overnight on Sunday and in the early hours of Monday morning, up to five explosive devices were found in a backpack inside a rubbish bin in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of them exploded while being handled by a robot. The city’s mayor has said this was “not a controlled explosion.”…

I’m not even sure how many incidents that counts as, or what’s related to what.

My main personal concern with all this is that my youngest daughter is in New York. Bryan has a similar concern with two sisters there.

On the other hand, the Minnesota attack is worrisome because it’s part of a pattern of recent attacks that are NOT in New York or Washington or Boston, which shows terrorists are figuring out that if they really want to terrorize Americans, they should make them feel insecure everywhere. Either that, or he couldn’t afford a plane ticket to the big media centers. After all, he apparently couldn’t afford firearms.

A quick update: The guy authorities were looking for in New York, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was captured after being wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police.

And POTUS was delivering remarks on the incidents. This just ended a moment ago. Watch for criticism that he didn’t mention “Islamic extremism,” or didn’t mention it enough, or whatever.


majorsOh, by the way… The bad guys in “Weekend of Terror” were Robert “The Wild, Wild West” Conrad and Lee “Six-Million-Dollar Man” Majors. Sort of against type for both. Neither, you’ll note, looks like a Muslim, so just another case of the liberal media conspiracy trying to pull the wool over our eyes, right?…

The bad guys in "Weekend of Terror" were Robert "The Wild, Wild West" Conrad and Lee "Six-Million-Dollar Man" Majors. Sort of against type for both. Neither, you'll note, looks like a Muslim, so just another case of the liberal media conspiracy...

Here we go with Hillary’s ‘health issue’


In the last couple of days, we’ve seen two things happen that illustrate just how fragile Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump is — a fact that leaves our nation suspended by a hair over disaster.

First, there was her “basket of deplorables” remark. Remember Mitt Romney’s “47 percent?” This could be worse, for the simple fact that it’s more quotable, more vivid. The “47 percent” needed at least a brief footnote of explanation. “Basket of deplorables” travels on its own.

And today, we have this:

Hillary Clinton left a New York memorial service marking the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks early after feeling “overheated,” according to a campaign spokesman.

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen,” spokesman Nick Merrill said. “During the ceremony, she felt overheated, so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment and is feeling much better.”

Clinton arrived at the memorial at 8:18 am and greeted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and his wife as she exited her van, according to the pool.

Reporters traveling with Clinton became aware about 9:36 a.m that she was no longer in the place where she had been standing. By 9:48 a.m., her campaign confirmed that Clinton left the viewing area as early as 9:30 a.m.

Clinton’s daughter lives on East 26th Street, in the Gramercy neighborhood of lower Manhattan — about a 15-minute drive from Ground Zero….

The headline of that snippet, which will become a full-fleshed news story over the next hour or so, begins “Clinton falls ill…”

Here we go. Granny’s had a spell, and we will all stop remembering 9/11 and start talking about the fact that she’s a granny — and do we want Granny running the country?

Never mind that the woman has way more stamina than most of us. She wouldn’t be where she is otherwise.

While I may go on about nagging health problems here on the blog from time to time, I’m actually in pretty good shape. My blood pressure and pulse always draw remarks of approval from health care professionals. I have zero signs of heart disease, my cholesterol is OK, all major organ functions are nominal, in the astronaut sense of the word.

But I’m not perfect. For the past week, I’ve been getting these sinus headaches that I think are related to a minor cold that my grandson brought home to my wife from 4K. They start in the late morning, and by the end of the day, all I want to do is lie down and make it go away. On Friday, while everyone else at ADCO was at lunch, I lay down on the carpet of my office with my head resting on a rolled-up sweater for about 10 minutes, and got up feeling renewed for the rest of the day.

If I were a presidential candidate, and someone had seen me do that, the headlines would be “Warthen collapses on campaign trail” or some such. Everyone would be going on about my “spell” and what it said about my fitness for office.

And maybe I wouldn’t have the stamina for such a job. Most of us wouldn’t. Look at how it’s aged Obama.

But Hillary Clinton? The woman’s been running full-tilt for president for a quarter-century now. After this, the presidency itself should be breeze. She can take naps, like Reagan.

I’m not terribly concerned about Hillary Clinton’s health one way or the other. What I am concerned about is that she’s running against the least-qualified, most appalling man ever to win a major party’s nomination, and it’s so close that something like this could lose it for her.

That’s what worries me.

A couple of days back, I meant to write something about this story, which was written, I should note, before both the “basket of deplorables” remark and the “overheating” spell: “Democrats wonder and worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?

As well they might. For my part, I don’t wonder. I can see the things Democrats are blind to.

But I do worry. A lot.

Charleston Post & Courier buys Free Times


I heard the rumor a couple of weeks ago and started poking around, and just now got confirmation from the most reliable of sources:


Yes, we just closed on the Free Times in Columbia!  We are putting out a press release as I am sending this.  We are super excited about the acquisition and look forward to growing in the Columbia market!


P.J. Browning


The Post and Courier

This is good news, following on the most terrible of news. In the wake of Charlie Nutt’s shocking death, I had worried about what would become of the alternative weekly and my friends who work there.

It’s good to know that an outfit as steady and successful as the P&C will now be publishing the paper.

Tubman to replace Old Hickory; Hamilton to stay on sawbuck (Yay!)

Here’s some mighty fine news:

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that Harriet Tubman, an African­American who ferried hundreds of slaves to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill….

And the best part to me — with all due respect to Ms. Tubman and the noble role she plays in our history — is that Alexander Hamilton will stay on the sawbuck. As I’ve said before, if anyone needed to go, it was Old Hickory.

I celebrated that part of the news on Twitter the other day:

But I neglected to mention it on the blog, so I’m glad to have this opportunity to make up for that.Tubman mug

Jackson is one of my less favorite major American historical figures, despite his triumph at New Orleans. I consider his defeat of John Quincy Adams — possibly the best-qualified president in our history — in their second contest to be one of our nation’s low points.

And I feel something of a personal connection to Ms. Tubman — when my wife and youngest daughter moved up to Pennsylvania for a year so my daughter could study ballet there, they lived in part of a house that had been part of the Underground Railroad. Or, at least, its cellar had been.

So I’m quite pleased…

Iranians take two U.S. Navy vessels; U.S. sailors in custody

U.S. Navy Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC)

U.S. Navy Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC)

This is not a promising situation:

Two small U.S. Navy vessels appear to be in Iranian custody but their crews will be released promptly, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.

Two U.S. naval craft were en route from Kuwait to Bahrain when they disappeared from the Navy’s scopes. The incident marks the latest run-in between Iranian and U.S. crews. In late December, Iranian gunboats fired unguided missiles almost a 1,000 yards away from the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman.

A U.S. official said that the boats were small riverine variants and may have ran out of gas or had mechanical issues and were believed to have been within 12 nautical miles of Iran when they broke down….

This prompts a number of questions, such as:

  • Two boats broke down at the same time in the same place? Or did Iran do something to cause them to “break down?” Or did one break down and the other was rendering aid? What happened?
  • What kind of boats were these? What’s a “small riverine variant”? Are they like P.B.R.s? Swift boats? P.T. boats? How are they configured and crewed? What are they designed to do? What’s the mission? (UPDATE: Apparently, these were Small Unit Riverine Craft. A picture is posted above.)
  • If our sailors are not released promptly, then what?
  • I missed the news about the Truman incident. What was our response? That is, what did we do after we sank the gunboats? (No, I know we didn’t, or I would have heard about it.)


Forest Acres officer shot, killed at Richland Mall

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

Horrible news travels so fast these days.

By the time I got a news alert from WACH telling me that a Forest Acres officer had been shot and killed at Richland Mall this morning, the flags at City Hall were already at half-mast:

And more astoundingly, my friend Mary Pat Baldauf had already contributed to a memorial fund for him:

It’s like we don’t even get a moment anymore to absorb the news, to say, “Oh, my God. How terrible…”

So consider that to have been said by me. Perhaps I’ll have more to say later.

Girlfriend: Roof friend Joe Meek hauled in by FBI

This just in:

The man who gave shelter to Dylann Roof in the weeks before the June killings of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church has been arrested by the FBI.

Agents picked up Joseph “Joey” Meek Jr., 21, of Red Bank while he was at work Thursday afternoon, his girlfriend Lindsey Fry told The State newspaper just before 4 p.m.

Meek called her on his cell phone as it was happening, Fry said.

“He just said, ‘They want to talk to me, but I think I’m going to jail,’” Fry said.

Meek lives in a trailer in Red Bank with his mother, two brothers and Fry….

I don’t know what they want him for, but this has not been Joey Meek’s week

Ex-Rep. Nelson Hardwick just became an unperson

Wow, that was quick.

This was just reported:

Hardwick-NelsonState Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Horry, resigned Tuesday evening in the middle of his sixth term after an investigation by the House Speaker’s office.

Hardwick was accused to sexually harassing a female House staff member, accorrding to four lawmakers who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation….

Not knowing him, I went to look him up… and he had already been removed from the list of members on the legislative website.

Winston Smith moved quickly on this one. One day a lawmaker, the next day… you are an unperson.

Speaker Lucas had this to say:

“I received Representative Hardwick’s resignation letter and accepted his decision to step down from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Speaker Lucas stated. “As Speaker, maintaining the integrity and public trust of this Body is my highest priority.  Any inappropriate activity related to the men, women, and staff that serve in the House Chamber has been and will continue to be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously.  Each of us have been entrusted with the opportunity to serve the public and that trust must never be called into question.”

The cast of “Star Wars VII” assembles


This is pretty cool — a picture of old and new cast members sitting around preparing for shooting to begin in a couple of weeks on the new “Star Wars.”

Check this out:

The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.

Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.

Director J.J. Abrams says, “We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

Star Wars: Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

I wonder what character Max von Sydow will play — the ghost of Obiwan Kenobi, perhaps?

I guess that’s the back of his head, talking to Mark Hamill over on the left. There’s Harrison Ford on the opposite side of the circle, in front of R2D2. Is that Carrie Fisher two over to the right of him?

Aside from von Sydow, I don’t know the new cast members. But then, I didn’t know who Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill were, before the original film. Carrie Fisher I remembered from “Shampoo.” Who could forget?

Rep. Ted Vick calls it quits

This just in:

Rep. Ted Vick will not seek 6th term in SC House
Chesterfield, SC – State Rep. Ted Vick announced on Friday that he will not seek a 6th term in the South Carolina General Assembly.  Vick has served as a State Representative of Chesterfield and Lancaster for the past ten years.

Vick released the following statement regarding his decision:

“It’s time to spend more time and effort on my family.  My twins will be 11 this year and they need me to be more focused on their needs and our time together. My family and I have been talking for months about a new phase in our lives and we are looking forward to it.

It has been a pleasure to serve the people of SC House District 53 and I am honored they allowed me to represent them in Columbia.”  

Vick has chaired the SC House Rural Caucus, SC House Sportsman Caucus, SC House AG subcommittee, SC Wildlife committee, SC House Interstate Cooperation committee, and served as chief Minority Whip for eight years.

Unfortunately for him, you will remember Ted Vick as the SC legislator whose DUI defense (that he was walking that way because he had a rock in his shoe) made the Daily Mail

Those Lowcountry Democrats know how to party

I enjoyed a release I got last night urging “James Island & Folly Beach Democrats” to “Gather with your Democratic friends” at the Lowcountry Senior Citizen Center on James Island on Nov. 13.

Among the rollickin’ fun that’s on tap:

This program on healthcare will give us an update on accessing the new Affordable Health Care Act…

Woo-hoo! What a fun way to spend the evening. If you’re a Democrat. Not.

CPD Chief Scott quits; explanation hard to fathom – 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

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.

1 bombing suspect dead, the other at large after shootout

This just gets wilder:

BOSTON — The two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings led police on a wild and deadly chase through the suburbs here early Friday morning that ended in the death of one of the suspects as well as a campus police officer; the other suspect remained at large while hundreds of police officers conduct a manhunt through Watertown, about five miles west of downtown Boston.

The one police identify as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, at large.

The one police identify as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, at large.

 The surviving suspect was identified as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, Mass., a law enforcement official said. Investigators believe that that both of the suspects were Chechens, a law enforcement official said….

 The pursuit began after 10 p.m. Thursday when two men robbed a 7/11 near Central Square in Cambridge. A security camera caught a man identified as one of the suspects, wearing a gray hoodie.

About 10:30, police received reports that a campus security officer at M.I.T. was shot while he sat in his police cruiser. He was found with multiple gunshot wounds, according to a statement issued by Middlesex Acting District Attorney Michael Pelgro, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas, and MIT Police Chief John DiFava. The officer was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A short time later, police received reports of an armed carjacking of a Mercedes SUV by two males in the area of Third Street in Cambridge, the statement said. “The victim was carjacked at gunpoint by two males and was kept in the car with the suspects for approximately a half hour,” the statement said. He was later released, uninjured, at a gas station on Memorial Drive in Cambridge.     …

One report I saw they just killed the MIT officer execution-style, no chance.

What sequence of events has loosed mad, bloodthirsty Chechen brothers onto the streets of Boston?

I’m going to be traveling today but will try to check in. Y’all have at it…

At least 2 dead after explosions at the Boston Marathon

EDITOR’S NOTE: The latest developments in this breaking story will be at the bottom of the comment thread…

This broke a little while ago, but reports remain sketchy. From The Boston Herald:

Two huge explosions rocked the Boston Marathon finish line at Copley Square just before 3 p.m. today, apparently causing numerous casualties.

“I saw two explosions. The first one was beyond the finish line. I heard a loud bang and I saw smoke rising,” said Herald reporter Chris Cassidy, who was running in the marathon.“I kept running and I heard behind me a loud bang. It looked like it was in a trash can or something. That one was in front of Abe and Louie’s. There are people who have been hit with debris, people with bloody foreheads.”

“There are at least a dozen that seem to be injured in some way,” Cassidy said.

Will this be the first successful terror attack in this country since 9/11/01? Or a gas main exploding? We’re still in those foggy first moments of developing news. Or developing history.

The passing of Roger Ebert, a great movie critic


This from his paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, a few minutes ago:

For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative, or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.

“No good film is too long,” he once wrote, a sentiment he felt strongly enough about to have engraved on pens. “No bad movie is short enough.”

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.

lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. “No point in denying it,” he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity…

Ebert had announced a few days ago on his blog that cancer had struck again, and that he would be taking a “leave of presence,” dialing back his own involvement and running mostly reviews from others on his website. “I am not going away,” he said.

If only he could have kept his promise.

I had come to appreciate Ebert more than ever in recent years, as I embraced social media. He was an avid practitioner, Tweeting all hours of the day and night on all topics, using the new medium to make up for his inability to speak. I thought it great that he could do that, and not be cut off from the world.

But now he has been cut off from it. That’s sad news, and I thought I’d share it.

Free Times: No Walmart in the old ballpark

This just in from Eva Moore over at the Free Times:

The developer who planned to build a Walmart on Assembly Street says the company has pulled out and he’s searching for another anchor tenant.

Matt Sasser of the Atlanta-based development company Bright Meyers says he has some new anchor tenants in mind but isn’t ready to talk about them yet. He hopes to have one secured by the end of January…

Dang. So there’s going to be a controversial shopping facility of some kind, but now there’s not going to be a handy downtown Walmart.

That sort of seems like the worst of both worlds, but maybe I’m looking at it wrong…

Durst to head (former) Hospitality Association

This just in from the association formerly known as Hospitality:

Hospitality Association gets new leader and name

Columbia, S. C.—The South Carolina Hospitality Association today announced that John Durst, former director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, is the new President and CEO of the organization, whose membership is comprised of restaurant and hotel owners and operators.
The association, founded in 1993, also announced that it has changed its name to the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Durst, who served as the state’s top tourism official in Gov. Jim Hodges’ administration, took over as head of the state’s most prominent tourism trade group today. His background is in communications and marketing, most recently running the South Carolina office for Carolina Public Relations and Marketing based in Charlotte.
“We were flooded with interest in this position for one of the highest-profile associations in the state,” said Rick Erwin, a Greenville restaurant owner and immediate past association chairman. “But the executive committee and our board quickly came to the conclusion that John’s management skills, coupled with his marketing background, reputation, credibility and passion for our industry, were exactly what we need to position us for the future.”
Among his many awards was the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau Golden Pineapple Award for his role in leading the rebound of tourism in South Carolina after 9/11. “We vividly recall how John used his position at PRT to promote our state in a time when people were afraid to travel. We are fortunate to have him as the full-time face of our organization,” Erwin said.
“I am deeply honored and tremendously excited to have been selected to serve in this position,” Durst said. “We will help our members realize a great return on their investment in our Association, increase our membership base, and strengthen our strategic partnerships while becoming an even stronger voice and advocate for our state’s number one industry, tourism.”
With Durst as its new leader, the executive committee and governing board decided to change the name of the association to more accurately reflect its membership, as well as to signal a new chapter in the life of the largest tourism-related entity in the state.“We have a distinguished past, but this last year was filled with tragedy,” said David McMillan of Myrtle Beach, the new board chairman. “Hard lessons have been learned. New policies have been put in place to make sure it never happens again. And today, the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association is looking toward the future in which we will serve our membership and advocate for this state’s largest economic engine more effectively than ever.”
In February, it was discovered that a trusted bookkeeper had embezzled nearly $500,000 from the organization. Tom Sponseller, the President and CEO, committed suicide.
Authorities concluded he was not associated with the crime in any way. The bookkeeper has been sentenced to prison.
Rick Erwin, who guided the association as chairman during the past year and took over as temporary President, outlined financial accountability standards that have been taken in the wake of the embezzlement:
• The association has retained the Hobbs Group (accounting firm) to reconcile and prepare quarterly reports for the board of directors.
• New bylaws require the Finance Committee to review and approve financials before they go to the board.
• A separate audit committee will conduct a comprehensive annual audit of the books.
• Policies are in place to control incoming and outgoing funds to include check logs, separate check writers, duel check signers and bank account and statement controls.
• Wells Fargo Bank’s fraud department will monitor all of the association’s account for unusual activity.
Also attending the news conference to express support for Mr. Durst and the association were Senate President Pro Tem John Courson, PRT Director Duane Parrish and South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Otis Rawl.

John (brother of sometime commenter Walter), a former president of my Rotary Club, is a good choice, just the sort of guy to settle things down after the roller-coaster ride this industry association has been on, including the suicide of his predecessor and a major misappropriation of funds by another staffer.

I wish him the best.