WIS Investigation: Ethics details 25 charges against Bishopville - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

WIS Investigation: Ethics details 25 charges against Bishopville council

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An August 2012 city council meeting in Bishopville. An August 2012 city council meeting in Bishopville.

The counts listed in an ethics report show 25 separate violations against Bishopville's most-powerful elected officials.

In 2011, we started investigating a tip that members of Bishopville's city council cashed checks they shouldn't have received and failed to report conflicts of interest to the taxpayers.

Bishopville City Councilman Craig Nesbit delivered a warning to council last year just minutes after a vote that got several councilmen in trouble.

"You should have recused yourself," said Nesbit to his fellow council members.

Between 2007 and 2011, the city cut the group monthly stipends, which is illegal under state law.

Nesbit made a motion to order the mayor and four other council members to repay more than $7,000 in cash. He wanted them to pay the money back, and asked for a vote.

Councilmen Mike Morrow and Dr. Ken Currie did not vote that night, but ethics charged them with not telling the public about their conflicts.

Mayor Alexander Boyd, Mayor Pro Tem Ennis Bryant, and Councilwoman Willie Mae Muldrow all voted no to stopping the payments. Ethics charged them for voting with a conflict involved.

"This is more or less how it's always been done," said Nesbit. "They just do whatever they want to do, however they want to do it."

Nesbit was not charged because he never took the stipend payments. He started digging into the city's finance records and found the payments that totaled more than $7,200 each.

"So, if someone wants to file an ethics complaint against you guys, it's all on the record," said Nesbit.

"Yeah, I did receive the per diem," said Mayor Boyd. "I guess that we shouldn't have voted on this matter."

"For them to just be cocky, more or less to say, 'We'll do whatever we want to do,' I think they deserve whatever the Ethics Commission puts on them," said Nesbit.

Ethics investigators also charged Mayor Boyd with taking his family out to dinner in Hilton Head during a conference in 2011.

Records show Boyd charged $668 for food, kids' meals, and alcohol to the city's credit card.

We went to Boyd's home to ask him about it. He did not answer the door, and further efforts to contact the mayor have failed.

Ethics also charged Councilman Ennis Bryant with charging out-of-town meals for his family on his city credit card.

Councilman Bryant never returned our call.

It's the same ethics charge for Councilwoman Willie Mae Muldrow. Ethics investigators say she also charged city taxpayers for a family meal in Hilton Head.

Muldrow didn't answer her door and didn't return our call.

Ethics also charged City Administrator Greg McCutchen with charging taxpayers for a night out for his family.

We found McCutchen at Councilman Mike Morrow's gas station, but he did not answer any of the questions posed to him.

Back to Morrow for a bit. He sells fuel, diesel, batteries, and parts to the city and says he has for more than 40 years.

State ethics investigators say he broke the law because he never reported the income on his ethics reports, and voted on budgets that dealt with his business relationship with the city.

Ethics says Morrow should have never voted on the budgets, and charged him with that. Ethics also charged Morrow with not reporting the $286,747 he made off the city since 2008 with those four years being the window for ethics investigations.

"Based on, I guess my ignorance of the law, I didn't feel like I needed to out that in," said Morrow. "But, after having the talks with the investigators from the Ethics Commission and understanding better the law, I realized I do need to show that and I have and I will continue to do that."

Taxpayers pay a city administrator and a city attorney to advise council on ethics laws to keep city leaders from breaking them.

Ethics records show Morrow updated four years of ethics filings only after investigators interviewed him last fall.

Morrow's station gets the city's business three months each year as the city rotates its fuel purchases between three other stations in town.

But Morrow has the only diesel pump in town, and the city uses him exclusively for that.

Morrow says he doesn't think he's done anything wrong.

"I feel like I'm trying to do what's right for the city of Bishopville, as well as for me and my family and my business," said Morrow.

Nesbit says it'll take a drastic change to restore confidence back in Bishopville's government. Mainly several new council members.

Ethics also charged each of the council members who took the monthly stipend with not putting the $7,200 on their ethics forms. These officials face civil penalties of $2,000, up to $5,000 in fines and up to one year in prison if convicted.

Those charged in these ethics cases all have hearings set for mid-May.

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