COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Councilman Joe Walker III said a few months ago, he and other councilmembers were shown audit results from a company that looked into the finances of the entity managing the Penny Tax Program.
He said, before seeing those results, they had to sign legal documents preventing them from talking about what they saw.
“We’ve got to bring the truth forward,” Walker said. “We’ve got to clean up our own house so that we have any chance of moving forward as a productive council.”
Walker is looking for transparency. A third-party company was hired by the county to audit the Program Development Team – or PDT -- tasked with management of the Penny Tax Program. Walker said the full results of that audit aren’t available to taxpayers.
“We were asked, forced, to sign a non-disclosure agreement by the county attorney before we were given the briefing,” he said.
We asked Walker if that was typical.
“I can’t imagine that it is,” he replied. “Hence my letter. I want an opinion, it’s exactly why I included the Attorney General in the second letter as well. It strikes me as completely abnormal.”
Walker sent a letter to the company that performed the audit and to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson calling for a full release of the audit results to taxpayers. Richland County Chairman Paul Livingston said Walker has exercised his right as a councilman to make that request.
“I am just as concerned about any issue, or anything that’s been brought up by Mr. Walker,” Livingston said. “What I’m going to now wait on, whatever is going on now from the legal process, I’m going to let it takes its course before I can make a decision about which way to proceed.”
A representative from the PDT team spoke with us tonight saying the audit was not a full look into the Penny Tax Program, but specifically into the financial statements of the Program Development Team.
Walker said, either way, the public deserves to know what they’ve paid for.
“It’s their money,” he said. “It’s their projects, and it was our promise.”
When we spoke to Chairman Livingston, he also said he believed the full audit should be put out for taxpayers to see.