May 3, 2015

Mulvaney: Police body cameras should be local, not national, debate

Mulvaney at podium

Congressman Mick Mulvaney (File)

A South Carolina congressman said Monday that he does not want to see Congress debate the idea of police body cameras — which he says should be a local issue.

At a town hall forum in Rock Hill Monday night, U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney said he would like the federal government to keep its hands off that particular issue, according to WRHI.

“I’d rather see the decision made locally,” Mulvaney, a Republican from Indian Land, said. He added there is plenty of precedent of the federal government “sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Lawmakers in Columbia are considering two different versions of a bill that would equip South Carolina’s 12,000 law enforcement officers with the chest-mounted devices in order to record the officers’ interactions with the public.

[Read more…]

Sanford comes out against oil & gas exploration along SC coast

Mark Sanford (File)

Mark Sanford (File)

Congressman Mark Sanford has now firmly come down against offshore seismic testing and drilling for oil or natural gas off the Atlantic coast.

Sanford previously opposed oil drilling when he was governor — but had left the door open for natural gas. He had not committed to either position since the Interior Department in January proposed opening up the Atlantic to businesses exploring for oil or gas. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has also given preliminary approval for energy companies to begin “seismic testing” in the south and mid-Atlantic.

The tests use airguns which are towed behind vessels and shoot blasts of compressed air through the water and into the seabed. Researchers use reflections from the blast to map out the ocean floor, identify underwater fault lines, and analyze geologic formations that could hint about buried oil and gas deposits.

Sanford said in a Mount Pleasant press conference that the public would not get a chance to see the test results before any drilling leases would be approved. “Ultimately, South Carolinians would not be in the driver’s seat in making that call,” he said. “It would not be transparent. And, although the testing information would be out there, it would not be available to the public.”

He worried also worried about the environmental impact from the drilling infrastructure or an accident. “There is a special something about the look and feel of the Lowcountry,” he said. “And it needs to be preserved.”

The federal government estimates of the undiscovered oil and gas resources beneath the U.S. Atlantic outer continental shelf range from 1.3 to 5.58 billion barrels, which pales in comparison to the amount of estimated reserves in the Gulf Coast or other heavily-drilled regions.

South Carolina’s other coastal congressman, Tom Rice, favors exploration but agrees with Sanford that states must have a say in where offshore drilling is allowed. Upstate Congressman Jeff Duncan has been one of Congress’ most vocal supporters of Atlantic drilling, believing it could add billions to South Carolina’s economy and help reduce dependence on foreign oil sources. Gov. Nikki Haley also supports opening up the state’s coast. All four politicians are Republican.

But dozens of coastal cities and towns in South Carolina have passed referendums against the idea, worried about the potential impact on their community.

USC president to visit Upstate campus after no-confidence vote in chancellor there


Image: USC-Upstate

USC-Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore

University of South Carolina system President Harris Pastides says he plans to soon visit the Spartanburg campus in response to a no-confidence vote against the school’s chancellor.

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports faculty members at University of South Carolina-Upstate approved a no confidence vote against Chancellor Tom Moore 96-58 on Friday. The vote is not legally binding, but is meant to serve as a “wake-up call” to school administrators, according to supporters.  Pastides said in a statement he thinks USC-Upstate is making tremendous strides and plans to come to Spartanburg to meet with Moore and faculty members and discuss the vote.

Moore told faculty members before the vote that he has set aside $100,000 for faculty salaries and is hiring six new tenure-track professors. He said he has improved the school’s financial status and apologized for his poor communication skills.

Faculty at the school began turning on Moore last May after more than $450,000 in cuts was announced and school leaders said they would close Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. While the center remains open one year later, the campus child development center did not survive the cuts.

Some of the Gender Studies Center’s supporters claimed the closure was retaliation by state leaders for the school planning to host several gay-themed events in April 2014. The event was canceled after complaints from legislators. Moore said the cuts were “unfortunate timing,” but just coincidence.

“I don’t take this vote lightly,” Moore said in a statement. “I remain committed to this institution and committed to my role as its leader. In the weeks and months ahead, I hope we can come together and focus on students, building our university, addressing the challenges ahead and embracing our successes.”


AUDIO: Former Lexington County sheriff sentenced to 1 year in prison

Former sheriff James Metts speaks with reporters one final time after his sentencing Monday

Former sheriff James Metts speaks with reporters one final time after his sentencing Monday

The man who was once South Carolina’s longest-serving sheriff will spending most of his next year in prison.

Former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts was sentenced in federal court Monday to 12 months and one day in prison and fined $10,000. He will also get two years of supervised release.

Metts pleaded guilty last December to a single charge. The 68-year-old was initially indicted on 10 charges, as investigators claimed he had taken bribes from a restaurant owner in exchange for releasing four of the restaurant’s employees who had been detained at the Lexington County Detention Center for being in the country illegally. But prosecutors dropped bribery and other charges in exchange for the ex-sheriff’s guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to harbor and conceal illegal aliens.

He resigned from office shortly before that plea. He had been suspended by Governor Nikki Haley ever since his indictment in June.

Metts made an emotional plea for leniency shortly before the ruling by U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten, saying he had made an “awful mistake.” “My life ended June the 17th of 2014,” the former sheriff said, noting the day he was indicted and suspended from office. “That day I lost my life. Helping the people of Lexington County was my life for the better part of 42 years.”

AUDIO: Metts comments on judge sentencing him to prison [Read more…]

Trooper cleared in I-20 shooting that followed sobriety test

A South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper has been cleared in the shooting of a man who pulled a gun on him during a traffic stop in Lexington County earlier this year.

WIS-TV reports the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office cleared Lance Cpl. Jason Snider earlier this month after a State Law Enforcement Division investigation.

Snider pulled Chance Etheredge over in February after he said Etheredge’s SUV drifted out of its lane on Interstate 20. Snider said Etheredge then failed a sobriety test, and the trooper was preparing to arrest him when Etheredge ran to his car. Snider fired his Taser, but Etheredge was able to get into the car. The trooper said Etheredge eventually stepped outside the vehicle with a gun. Snider fired his own weapon upon seeing the gun.

Etheredge was wounded with non-life threatening injuries and charged with assault and battery and resisting arrest. Dashcam video made public last week appears to back the trooper’s report.

The state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Highway Patrol, is still conducting an internal investigation.