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Opinion

The Calliham Scam


A Column By the Editor
web posted December 4, 2009
COLUMN – For over two years I have followed the exclusive move to purchase the debt of J. P. Calliham and his beleaguered property by the Edgefield County Council. Property that was sold in a foreclosure and now is supposed to be sold in a tax sale next week. But it might not be sold because it was reportedly removed from published public sale listings at the request of County Council Chairman Kneece, who does not have the authority to remove any property from a tax sale.

In fact, Chairman Kneece cannot call, ask, or instruct any county employee to perform any task relating to county operations whatsoever. But who cares, that’s the way we’ve “always done it around here”.

The sale may go forward if the Citizen News published the complete tax sale notices in its original form. The Edgefield Advertiser blanked out the official information in at least two publications which makes the legal notice invalid.

Mike Rosier, Publisher of The Citizen News, said he was contacted before the first notice ran by them and a family member of Mr. Calliham said County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece said the notice was to be removed. Rosier said they ran the official notice provided by the Tax Collector’s Office, but subsequent listings were sent to the printer and not through The Citizen News. “I don’t know if it was changed after that,” he said.

It is unknown at this time if the tax sale for unpaid taxes will go forward as required by law on the Calliham property the county council has voted to purchase. If it does not, that could cause serious repercussions on for County Council Chairman Kneece, County Attorney Michael Medlock, and the county.

On Nov. 18, 2009, the Edgefield Advertiser published a piece that was titled, “County Explains Funding for Calliham Bldg. Project”, but listed no source from the county and no supporting evidence to back the story.

It was explained that Edgefield County would act as its own “general contractor” on the project and would subcontract the work, saving the county money. Of course, the main beneficiary of that work is said to be Edgefield Construction, according to county officials who spoke on condition of anonymity due to increased pressure to not release public information.

Edgefield Construction is owned by Edgefield Mayor Ken Durham who provided the initial drawings and cost estimates on the project. He was supported in public meetings by Edgefield Construction co-owner Bettis Rainsford pushing for the purchase.

However, if the Edgefield Advertiser or other media outlets had done their homework, they would have learned that any job over $5,000 has to be placed out for bids and any person or company involved in the design, negotiations, or other aspects of the development of the plan would not be allowed to bid or perform the work.

According to the estimates for the work provided by the architectural firm 2KM, the initial costs of a partial remodeling would be $892,810.63. Well above the $625,000 available in insurance money.
 
County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece, Ken Durham, and Bettis Rainsford all have stated publicly the purchase and remodeling would not cost the county a penny in tax money.

Costs on the County Council Chambers and the Edgefield County Jail both went over budget and the same promises were made then.

How to reconcile past performance, and estimations by the very same people compared to professionals offering cost estimates 50% higher than Kneece, Durham, and Rainsford promises, holds very little in the way of assurance of anything they say being remotely factual.

However, Chairman Kneece refused to answer any questions on that matter Tuesday night and offered an attack rather than provide any answers when confronted with the estimates provided to the county from 2KM.

Furthermore, how will the county be its own contractor and its own building inspector? I thought Mike Reed was already holding two positions illegally by working as the head of the building department and acting as the only licensed commercial Tax Assessor. Will he now hold four positions?

Reed is signing off on the tax assessor’s work because Kiesha Bryant does not hold the required licensees, he is head of building and planning, he is the proposed general contractor, and oversees the building inspector charged to make sure the general contractor abides by the laws.

Yeah, what could possibly go wrong there?

Oh, I forgot, “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here.”

Maybe its time to get rid of those who always do what never works and expects a different outcome. How many times do you need to burn your hand on the stove to learn putting it there is going to hurt you?

 




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