Richland County’s transportation penny program citizens watchdog group will have a chance to tell County Council members exactly what tools they want to provide effective oversight of the embattled $1.02 billion road improvement sales tax.
A four-member council committee on Tuesday forwarded two council members’ proposals to reexamine the role of the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee (TPAC) to the citizens’ group itself, asking for feedback to council. The TPAC is scheduled to meet Monday.
“I think we need to make sure they have all the resources they need,” said Councilman Paul Livingston, chairman of the transportation committee.
The TPAC was one of a number of penny program-related items taken up by the transportation committee Tuesday.
The committee also voted to have county transportation director Rob Perry discuss with penny program development team members the role of public information personnel related to penny projects. The state Department of Revenue in an investigation letter in December raised concerns over the $600,000 being paid annually for five years to two firms, Campbell Consulting Group and BANCO Bannister, for public information work for the penny program.
In addition, a majority of transportation committee members opted not to repeal the county’s significant purchase ordinance, which was enacted in 2014 and allowed council to circumvent its typical procurement procedure in the selection of the penny program development team. The committee asked staff to evaluate the ordinance in advance of the next time it would be applicable to a significant contract, which could be a year away.
The committee also voted not to reimburse the penny program for funds used to operate the county’s Small Local Business Enterprise program, which was established to give small, local businesses greater opportunities to be involved in transportation penny projects. The program’s use of penny tax money also was called into question by the DOR.
Council instead will consider funding the SLBE program in the future through its general fund budget in discussions later this year.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
Washington, Jackson removed from committee
Richland County councilmen Kelvin Washington and Norman Jackson were removed Friday from council’s transportation committee by council Chairman Torrey Rush.
Rush said the chairman’s reorganization of committees is not unusual and that some other committees will be reshuffled, too.
In Washington and Jackson’s places, Councilman Seth Rose was appointed to the transportation committee, along with Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who told Rush she would not serve in that role. Councilmen Paul Livingston, Bill Malinowski and Jim Manning also serve on the committee.
Washington is facing state charges of failing to pay income taxes for 2012, 2013 and 2014. Washington’s charges are “personal issues” and had no effect on his standing with the transportation committee or his ability to perform as a council member, Rush said.
Jackson, who was present at Tuesday’s transportation committee meeting, expressed frustration at his removal from the committee. He said he believes his removal could be retaliation for an email he recently sent scolding Rush for “poor leadership.”
“I have 37 years (of experience) as a highway engineer,” Jackson said. “For some reason, I don’t know what the game is, to take me off (the transportation committee) ... I don’t know what’s happening.”