From a member of the Richland County legislative delegation…

… which, as you will recall, in our bizarre SC mockery of Home Rule, is responsible for the county election commission. Mia Garrick sent this out at about 6 a.m. today:

Friends,

I would like to take a moment to personally apologize for the reckless and unconscionable conditions so many of you encountered at Richland County polls on Election Day.
Like you, I’m livid about the senseless waits, poor preparation and other infractions that only seem to get more egregious with each passing day.

Just last evening, we learned that more uncounted ballots are still being “discovered” by the Richland County Election Commission and like you, I want answers.

You deserve accountability, transparency and every assurance that your fundamental right to vote will never again be compromised.  Thank you for your phone calls and emails. I hear you. I’m with you. And I won’t let up until your confidence in the integrity of Richland County’s electoral process is restored.

Take a look at my letter to our legislative delegation and let’s continue to fight for what’s right, together…

25 thoughts on “From a member of the Richland County legislative delegation…

  1. Brad

    By the way, for anyone who doesn’t understand why the delegation is in charge of such a thing…

    It’s a vestige of the legislative control of everything on the local level, which supposedly ended with the Home Rule act in 1975, but did NOT end.

    Before that, there were no county councils. Everything on the local level — county budgets, school budgets, libraries, parks, etc. — was decided by the legislative delegation from that county. (Until senior member districts were established just before that time, all lawmakers were elected, at large, from a county.)

    This was sort of the local-government version of the undue control that the Legislature inappropriately wielded over the executive and judicial branches on the state level.

    But even after county councils were established, bits and pieces of the old system remained. And it varies from county to county. In Richland, the delegation also controls the county parks, which are run by a special purpose district (special little governments created on an ad hoc basis over the years by the Legislature, there are something like 500 of them in the state — no one knows exactly how many).

    In Greenville, the delegation still sets the school budget (or did, until recently — I haven’t checked lately).

    In Dillon County, it really gets weird. There, the last time I checked, the delegation appointed the school board. There was only one member of the delegation who was actually a Dillon County resident (others have Marlboro- or Florence-based districts, and just a piece of Dillon), so for years, those other members have deferred to the REAL Dillon member as to whom to put on the school board.

    Then, quite a few years back, Jackie Hayes was elected to that Dillon House seat. He’s the athletic director and head football coach of the high school — you know, a guy who works for the school board.

    This is South Carolina, folks. We wrote all about this stuff in the Power Failure series back in 1991 — I think we had two full multi-page installments just about the insanity on the local level. We wrote about it all many times thereafter.

    But it doesn’t change.

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  2. Steven Davis II

    She didn’t say anything about Ms. McBribe’s bonus and raise that she’ll get once this is all swept under the rug.

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  3. Brad

    Bud, our comments crossed each other.

    I hope my explanation helped. And I hope it helps you see the broader context of my long war for government restructuring. As you see, it’s NOT just about “giving the governor more power.” It’s about getting the Legislature out of the business of running things lawmakers have no business running, and making sure the people elected to do certain jobs (on the state, county and municipal levels) have the power to do those jobs, so they can be held accountable for them.

    A lot of people have been shocked to learn county council has no authority over the election commission. Well, this is why.

    The Home Rule act set up local governments, and the idea was that they were to do what reasonable people expect local governments to do. And in a lot of ways, they now do. But we have all these little weird pockets of the old system that we never do away with…

    By the way, outside the SC context, home rule as a political concept just means greater local control as opposed to things being run by a more central power. For instance, the greater autonomy that Scotland has experienced in recent years (being more independent from Great Britain, and/or the UK) is referred to as Home Rule.

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  4. Beth

    From the SCEC website:

    The mission of the Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Office is to conduct elections according to Federal and State laws; to provide every eligible citizen with the opportunity to register to vote; participate in fair and impartial elections; and have the assurance that their votes will count. This mission shall be achieved by continually reviewing and improving the voter registration and election process. All board members and staff personnel are dedicated to maintaining the integrity and accuracy of the election process. We believe in the importance of each citizen’s right to vote.
    ==========================================================================
    Collective self-determination is the responsibility and right of all people in a community. No external entity should assume it can bestow on a community the power to act in its own self-interest without open communication, community input, and acknowledgment of how the community will feel the impact.

    This community belongs to all of us, not just to officials. And no one is too big to fall.

    A person in Ms. McBride’s position requires the public’s trust and the protection of citizen’s’ voting rights. The obligation to be accountable to that public should be acknowledged when the people’s trust and rights are violated or the public FEELS that has happened; you don’t shut down.

    There should never be a person that is “indispensable” at the expense of the citizens.

    Moreover, if the persons responsible for overseeing the person in her position are indeed elected officials, they have a duty and moral obligation to first protect the rights of the constituency they serve and who elected them – not silencing and hiding the employee in question. The message sent there is protection of someone who has done something wrong — at the expense of the public.

    Ms. McBride, in the safety-net of her indispensable position of authority, could not/would not respond to the public’s or the media’s questions. What did she have to lose by acknowledging the public’s concerns?

    In situations like these — the public needs to know their concerns are recognized and are high priority for state officials, legislators, the Governor, etc. — even if just perceptually.

    Liz Crum, Chris Whitmire, and Steve Hamm were the only officials that have shown concern and have spoken fairly openly regarding this chaos.

    While I don’t always agree with how the media handles things, I am most appreciative of them keeping the focus on this issue and reporting it to the public.

    Beth…a voter from Richland County

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  5. Kathryn Fenner

    It’s not that McBride is indispensable; it’s that the very badly written statute hiring her does not appear to make her fire-able.

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  6. Ralph Hightower

    Beth,

    Thanks for your research.

    It is incredibly stupid and dumb for the Richland County Legislative delegates to create a position on a level like a US Supreme Court Justice; once appointed, the appointment is for life.

    Richland County Council doesn’t have the authority to fire McBride. Apparently, the Richland County Legislative delegates can’t undo their dumb legislation appointing McBride either.

    Nathan Ballantine, one of the Richland County gang, wrote an op-ed in The State calling for a criminal probe.

    Where can I get paid $80,000 for life without accountability?

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  7. Mark Stewart

    If she were “with” us Garrick would take the accountability and state that the legislative delegation needs to get out of the business of patron-milling local affairs.

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  8. Mark Stewart

    Kathryn,

    I’m no lawyer, but it would seem that the idea of legislative intent would cover the delegation. They hired McBride and they did not include any language that this was a life-time appointment. They did, however, turn over all FUTURE hiring and firing of the Executive Director to the board – so they anticipated life after McBride.

    I would never make the claim that the delegation’s hands are tied. They got us into this mess and they ought to be the one’s to take responsibility and reboot the entire idea of this and every other special purpose entity.

    Otherwise, the accountability rests at the top. No one should cut any of the 15 in the delegation any slack on this. They need to toe the line, as Brad would say.

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  9. Kathryn Fenner

    I did a ton of research on another special purpose entity when I worked at Nexsen Pruet. Several top lawyers and I were baffled about what to make of the mess and what could be done to remedy it.

    I expect that new legislation could fix this, though. The light bulb has to want to change, though. What is the connection between McBride and Darrell Jackson?

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  10. Beth

    Kathryn — my use of indispensable was really tongue-in-cheeck.

    Her unique status from termination or easy termination implies she has a higher value, status, and is untouchable for the most part. Why that position? It projects the idea that “someone” thinks she is indispensable.

    I read a review on a book called Indispensable – When Leaders Really Matter by Guatam Mucunda

    “Indispensable reveals how, when, and where a single individual in the right place at the right time can save or destroy the organization they lead, and even change the course of history.”

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  11. Greg

    I don’t live in Ricjland County. If McBride or Crum, or both, don’t fall on their sword, you would hope all the members of the delegation would be extrememly vulnerable in the next election. But voters have short memories. Maybe the extra penny will jog those memories in two years.

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  12. Kathryn Fenner

    But why is he out front on protecting her? He’s been saying she deserves a second chance before we even know what happened exactly

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  13. Kathryn Fenner

    Crum has already said she’s out at the end of her term. She had no authority anyway, so it’s’hardly her fault

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  14. Steven Davis II

    McBride won’t fall on any sword, she won’t even talk to the media even though she’s the Director. What does she do to earn the $85,000 salary. She’s only responsible for setting up an event that happens every two years. What are her qualifications and how many others interviewed for this position?

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  15. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Well, actually, there are elections more frequently than that. City Council elections are in April, not November, and there are primaries.

    Her job is kind of like wedding planning. You only get one chance to do it right.

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  16. Steven Davis II

    “Her job is kind of like wedding planning. You only get one chance to do it right.”

    So what were her qualifications prior to this job? Wedding planner?

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  17. Beth

    Me too, Kathryn.

    Particularly since she was so quiet except to plead the fifth when asked if she had sought the advice of the former Director, Mike Cinnamon. Odd…like she was shut down or is being puppeteered. Why would there be a necessity to to establish her as unable to be fired by the Delegation but successors could b? It looks like a duck and quacks like duck….

    Reply

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