Check this out:
Richland County Council will have a special work session Friday afternoon to discuss Wednesday’s revelation from the Department of Revenue that the county’s transportation penny sales tax revenue would be cut off until the county brings the penny program into “compliance with state tax laws.”
Council will meet at 3 p.m. Friday in Council Chambers at 2020 Hampton St., Columbia, only to discuss the Department of Revenue penny tax issue. The discussion could move behind closed doors, as council has done regularly for updates and discussions on the matter during regular council meetings….
Executive session. Yeah, because, you know, what this situation needs is less transparency…
What kinds of things has the county been spending penny tax money on other than roads and buses?
You’ll never guess. Really. Not in a million years (unless you already know, which is cheating)…
Public Relations. That’s what it went for.
The Nerve reported this yesterday:
Analyzing months of reports from the Small and Local Business Enterprise Office – an office that the Department of Revenue (DOR) contends was improperly funded from penny tax revenue and which the county has agreed to repay in full through its general fund – the county paid:
- $169,687 to Strategic Business & Politics LLC, a single-employee business owned, S.C. Secretary of State records show, by Duane Cooper, the executive director of the South Carolina House Democratic Caucus. The business address is listed as 701 Gervais St., Suite 150-208, which is a mailbox at the UPS Store.
- $178,809 to Mizzell & Associates, a public relations/marketing firm held by former Richland County Councilman Tony Mizzell. Mizzell, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Columbia City Council in 2010.
- $674,440 to P.J. Noble and Associates, Pat Noble’s Columbia-based marketing company that in 2010 was the subject of news reports questioning a $65,000 public relations contract with the City of Columbia over North Main Street improvements. Noble worked in the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety under former Gov. Richard “Dick” Riley.
- $486,201 to J.B. Ladner & Associates, a one-person firm owned by Clarence Hill, an independent planning professional and former S.C. State professor, for outreach work.
The $1.5 million in public relations/outreach payments is over and above the $3 million awarded to two private firms – BANCO Bannister and Campbell Consulting – for penny tax public relations work. Owners Heyward Bannister and Darrell Campbell are well-known Democratic consultants, with Bannister having run the political campaigns for the penny tax both in 2010, when it was defeated, and again in 2012….
So I have to ask — if county has spent $4.5 million on public relations, how come it keeps getting nothing but black eyes over the penny tax?
You can do a heap of image-building on $4.5 million. But here’s the thing: Where is all that image-building? There’s a website… and… well, I don’t know what else. (There was a public info meeting about the tax yesterday and I’m kicking myself because I missed it. If anyone attended, and got a good answer to that question, please share.)
Whatever it went for, it’s not working…