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Audit Bettis Park and un-named non-profit

A Column by the Editor
web posted October 22, 2009
COLUMN – It looks as if I am starting to get under the skin of Edgefield County Council Vice-chairman Willie Bright questioning the things that have been going on at Bettis Park. It is not as if that is un-chartered waters for me, in reality it’s more of Déjà vu. But this time it is different; there is more information, more statements on the record, far more questions, and an investigation. There has also been an open call for an audit of Bettis Park activities by a county council member. Maybe it is the pressure and the accountability that is getting to him and I’m just an easy target.  

Bettis Park is the single county leased consolidated park for county recreation football, the most profitable sport, as well as other sports of baseball, softball, and soccer and has the only county owned concession stand. All paid for and operated by the taxpayers of Edgefield County.

Suddenly in 2006, former county administrator Wayne Adams overrode a vote and ordinance passed by the county council and turned the operation of the county concession stand at Bettis Park over to “the leagues”, according to County Recreation Director Nick Waits. Money that, by law, “must be deposited with the county treasurer”.  

However, that did not take place at the county owned concession stand at the only county park with sports. We have now learned that the concession stand was, and is, being run by Debra Barley. She buys the stock, oversees the selling of items, and takes in all the cash.

For years requests for where the funds went were denied, misdirected, and ended with Edgefield County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece admitting that nobody knows where the money is going. 

Councilman Willie Bright gave a little more insight Monday night when he stated the money was going to a non-profit and talked about all the things “we” have done through it. He later turned his comments from a “we” standpoint to a “ya’ll” claiming “we” are about to make “ya’ll” (the county) pay more to use the park.

Now, call me crazy, but that has an awful ring of an open admission of personal ownership to the entire situation at Bettis Park. Oh, and then to top it off, Councilman Bright couldn’t remember the name of the 501(3)c that “we” can account for the money through.

Well, now isn’t that just special?

I say it is time to find the name of the non-profit Councilman Bright. It’s time to reveal if your name is in anyway connected to this wonderful non-profit that “we” did so much with and you so aggressively defend without naming it.

I would also be interested to see if there is a problem with you voting on matters that directly benefit an organization you seem to be affiliated with including yourself as part of the “we” if that is the case. I believe that would be a direct conflict of interests. I guess I could be wrong.

Meanwhile the county taxpayers provide the concession stand, power the concession stand, maintain the concession stand, insure the concession stand, provide the customers to purchase items at the concession stand, but gets no money from the concession stand.

That’s a sweetheart deal like none I’ve ever heard of before if you can get it.

County council members Rodney Ashcraft (R- Westside) and Genia Blackwell (R- Merriwether) have questioned why this new amendment to the recreation ordinance is backdated to 2006. I agree with them. How can you backdate anything? Either it happened or it didn’t on that date. County Council members Monroe Kneece (D- Johnston), Willie Bright (D- Bettis Academy), and Norman Dorn (D- Northside) have already voted once to pass the ordinance. 

The Sheriff’s Office, who launched an investigation, requested an audit of the funds and was rebuked by the county. Councilman Ashcraft has come forward formally requesting the audit be performed and is gaining support for that measure.

The fact is county government is open to the public. It is not “them against us”. “They” are “us” and we have every right to demand accountability and they are by law demanded to supply it, it is that simple.

The wording in the amendment was also questioned Monday night, drawing the ire of Councilman Bright. The first reading stated the funds made by the concession sales would be turned over to the leagues. When this was pointed out to Mr. Bright, thus implicating the non-profit would be excluded from being able to operate the stand he stated “we” started the football league.

That’s odd, the county council voted to fund and start the football league, not some unnamed non-profit - “we” had.

So let’s take County Councilman Willie Bright at his word. The money that has been taken in since 2006 has been accounted for by the treasurer “we” (the non-profit) has had for years. Great, it is a non-profit receiving funding from a tax-exempt status and its books are open for review.

Let’s open them along with membership rosters, board members past and present, and minutes to the meetings.    

Oh, and don’t forget the bank records.

Best of all, remember the same people are in charge of taking in gate fees and do not give out tickets to the paying attendees at the park so there is not a paper trail to the cash taken in there as well. Who can tell if the person sticking dollar bills in his pockets at the gate is turning in money from both pockets?

That would be nobody.

With all this un-accounted for cash floating around, it just seem like there should be somebody held accountable. I’m sorry; I forgot that Willie Bright couldn’t remember the names.

However, Council Willie Bright, according to league volunteers, shut down their sale of cupcakes to fund the cheerleaders forcing all sales to the concession stand to profit a non-profit whose name escapes him.

Here’s an idea, why don’t we start with Willie Bright since he seems to know, and has forgotten, more than anyone else in this completely sordid affair as well as County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece. Surely the Chairman and Vice-chairman know what is going on.

Darn, I forgot again, Kneece doesn’t know and Bright can’t remember. 

And where is the ever self-proclaimed champion of watchdogs of “the peoples money” Norman Dorn in all of this? So far he is voting to sweep it under the rug.


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