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Editor's Column

Edgefield County misses out on chance to advance

web posted October 30, 2006

COLUMN – With the hiring of John Pettigrew Jr. of Edgefield as the new county administrator I figured I would weigh in on a few things. The first being Mr. Pettigrew, who has served as Mayor of Edgefield and a stint in the House of Representatives. I have known John Pettigrew since high school and believe he is an intelligent, likeable, Christian man.  He is a successful businessman. He was not, however, the most qualified candidate for the job of administrator. At least two county councilmen agree.

A county administrator is not allowed to be political. Bettis Rainsford touts Mr. Pettigrew’s elected positions and a law degree as being qualified. Anyone, regardless of qualifications, can be elected. Norman Dorn, who readily comments at county council meetings that he does not understand many of the items up for vote and once even admitted he did not know what “miscellaneous” meant, is a fine example. John Pettigrew’s best experiences are as a politician. Somehow that glaring contrast never entered the minds of three of our county councilmen.

Can Mr. Pettigrew do the job as administrator? Maybe, maybe not. But therein lays yet another problem. Edgefield County is in a mess and needs someone who can walk in and take charge, not someone who will need training. The Edgefield County Council has created a plethora of problems that need to be resolved. Only an experienced, well-trained professional can accomplish that feat and two of the final three could have done so.

Among the problems is the amended ordinance on the budget. On September 5 the county council was to hold a Pubic Hearing and a second reading on the amended budget. Before the second vote, the items to be added to the agenda were to be received into the budget. However, with Wayne Adams attending his last meeting of council before departing to Newberry, Chairman Monroe Kneece held a second reading of the ordinance instead of a Public Hearing. Then, before receiving the amended items into the budget, Chairman Kneece held a third and final reading of the ordinance, a clear and undeniable violation of South Carolina law. Chairman Kneece even admitted to the “mistake” in a September interview.

Another fine mess the county finds itself in is due to the recent reassessments which has property values skyrocketing coupled with and unheard of increase in millage rates. When property values go up, millage rates are supposed to go down. In addition to the double dipping of tax dollars, the county council also finds itself exceeding the legal limitation of the Consumer Price Index increase of 3.4% over the previous year’s rates. The law does allow for the 3.4% CPI to be overridden, but only for a few reasons, none of which the county council can name as a basis for the increase. Residents in the Mount Vintage community have already contacted the Attorney General’s Office in an attempt to challenge this issue.

When the Upper Savannah Council on Governments (USCOG) sent the results of their screening of the applicants for the job of administrator to the county council, Mr. Pettigrew’s name was not among the top ten most qualified. His name was added during the interviewing process by one of the councilmen. Not being an expert on Mr. Pettigrew’s credentials, if USCOG did not deem him among the most qualified, I will have to defer to their professional assessment. Personally, I like John Pettigrew and do not wish to seem unfair to him on this issue. However, once again, state law denotes a county council cannot make their decision based on the “likeability” of an applicant, only his administrative and executive experience. Clearly Mr. Pettigrew’s did not match up to the others in those areas according to the professional opinion of USCOG.

To add to the many problems the county council faces, the vote to hire Mr. Pettigrew could be considered improper. The process was undertaken by secret ballot. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, the accepted guide to parliamentary procedures by the county, no secret ballot can be used in a voting process unless a motion, a second, and a unanimous vote of the full body is taken prior to the balloting. This did not occur making the vote questionable. Only one councilman, Joel Hudson of Merriwether, has stated his vote on the hiring to the public. The ballots did not have the names of the voting members on them; therefore there is no official record of how the members voted.

Will the Edgefield County Council change their minds in this, or any of the above matters? No. They never admit to mistakes unless forced to do so.

Quite honestly, I do not see why Mr. Pettigrew would want to insert himself into such a messy situation. He will have to disavow himself from all political activities which he is well associated. He will, by all indications, have to quit his present job. And he will never escape the cloud of controversy that hangs over his hiring.

Will Mr. Pettigrew do a good job? Honestly I do not know. But I will agree with one county councilman who said we missed a great opportunity to do something good for Edgefield County by hiring a highly qualified and experienced administrator.


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