DENMARK – City Council discussed a $4,000 fine being levied against the City of Denmark by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control at the July meeting.
Councilwoman Hope Long Weldon said to Public Works Director Charles Michael Shugart after he gave his report, “Two meetings back, I asked you if all of the information had been submitted to DHEC, and you said it had. In fact, I went into a discussion with you, and you assured me (it had).”
At the May meeting, Weldon told Shugart, “I noticed you did not mention the unsatisfactory report from DHEC.”
Shugart responded that he has been fulfilling the agency’s requests after the unsatisfactory report.
“Nearly everything they have asked for has been submitted to them,” he said.
At the July meeting, Weldon said the fine from DHEC could have resulted from incomplete paperwork.
“Was that your responsibility or was it someone else’s?” she asked Shugart.
Shugart said, “Since I have been working here in January, all information they requested, we had submitted. What they are referring to is information that they asked for in 2018, the 2018-2019 sanitary survey.
“Since the 2019 sanitary survey, we have answered every question they have had. We have submitted paperwork for everything they have asked for. I don’t know of anything that we haven’t,” he said.
Shugart said they are waiting on some bids and some funding for some projects, however.
Weldon referred to an article in The Times and Democrat that the town failed to meet an obligation to DHEC on March 4 of this year regarding the survey.
She asked, “Was it that you were not aware or that you were not informed?”
Shugart asked where in article it might be, and he and Weldon looked over copies of the article during the meeting.
Mayor Dr. Gerald Wright put down his gavel and said, “Due to the length of that report and article … there are a number of things covered. I think it would probably be more appropriate to have a work session dealing specifically with that.”
Weldon asked, “Who was at the closed door meeting that they said that the administrators attended when DHEC gave the fine for $4,000?”
Shugart said that he, Wright and City Administrator Heyward Robinson were present at the meeting with DHEC.
“No council person was there,” Weldon said.
Wright said, “It was not a closed door meeting as such. It was a meeting that was requested from DHEC to address that situation.”
“Look, they did not want any council there?” Weldon asked.
Wright said, “The request was for ... “
Weldon interrupted, “In the article it says officials from the City of Denmark … this official did not attend and did not have the knowledge of such a meeting.”
She said that if the article is not true, they need to have the newspaper readdress the article or resubmit the article.
“Is the part about the fine true? Are we being fined $4,000?” Weldon asked.
Wright again stated that they should have a special session to discuss the fine.
Weldon replied, “But I think that question could be answered ...”
“A couple of things …” Mayor Wright started to reply.
Weldon interrupted, “That came from the paper!”
“Well, there are times when the paper is not accurate,” Wright said.
“And I am begging you to make us accurate. If you can, by all means do,” Weldon said.
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Wright said, “Number one, the meeting we attended was an executive function. So those persons who should have been there were there. Not at any point did we receive information and not share it at the proper time.
“But it was not a meeting where we would have assembled the full council to attend,” he said.
Weldon said, “But … the meeting was in May and the council is again meeting for a public gathering, and we have still not been privy to the meeting or the notice of enforcement. I got this from the newspaper … yesterday.”
“There was no attempt to not share … in fact, it was shared,” Wright said.
“Where was it shared? It was never shared (with me),” Weldon said.
“Immediately following the meeting,” Wright said.
Weldon replied, “It says here (in the newspaper), the meeting took place in May. It does not give a specific date.”
Weldon mentioned the “closed-door meeting” again as quoted from the newspaper.
Wright said, “That is a misstatement. It was not a closed-door meeting. It was a meeting with the executives, officers from the city and DHEC.”
“I am reading directly from the newspaper,” Weldon said.
Wright said he was telling her directly what happened and requested again that they set aside a time to discuss in a detailed matter everything that was in the newspaper, the official responses they gave and what they received from DHEC.
“I think it would serve us better than using a document from the newspaper,” Wright said.
Weldon said, “If this happened in May and we are already in July, that means six weeks have transpired, and we are here locally in Denmark, and no one has said, ‘We have an order. We are being fined. We need to come together as a body.’”
“I have not been out of town. And I have been available to be reached. No one has attempted … If I am one of the officials, it said this meeting was for the officials, and I should have attended this meeting,” she said.
Wright asked again if they could set up a separate time to discuss the issue and that he was not willing to debate it.
He also said that those who should have attended the meeting had more of an administrative role, not a legislative one. He later in the meeting compared it to the federal branches of government.
Weldon said, “The meeting was so important that all of you had to meet, but you could not come back and inform council.”
Wright again asked for a separate meeting.
“We need to,” Weldon said.
She said that the council needs to meet to see if the information about the $4,000 fine is accurate and the details surrounding it.
“We can’t get it substantiated,” she said.
“I already said that,” Wright.
Weldon replied, “I asked you, and you never answered me. I asked, ‘Do we owe $4,000?’ You never answered.”
“That was not a question that I heard,” Wright said.
Weldon replied, “Mayor Wright, has the City of Denmark been fined $4000?”
“Yes. Yes. Yes. That is correct, and it has been paid,” Wright said.
“It has been paid already?” Weldon asked.
Wright said that it had.
“So you’re saying we are now going to meet to discuss how we were charged $4,000, and it has already been paid, and council knows nothing about it,” Weldon said.
Wright said that they are going to discuss in detail what took place with the appropriate officials and that he was going to stop the discussion about the issue during the July meeting.
Wright and the council decided to meet to discuss the issue further at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 24 at the Brooker Center.