Councilman apologizes for ‘headphone incident’ in Kershaw County Council Meeting

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:14 PM EDT
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KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Some residents in Kershaw County tell WIS they’re “appalled” and “disrespected” by the actions of an elected official.

County Councilman Russell Brazell is on blast for listening to loud music while a former first responder addressed Emergency Medical System (EMS) issues during last week’s Kershaw County Council meeting.

On March 14, exactly 17 people signed up to voice their opinions on a $10 million recreation center slated for Woodward Park. As Chairwoman Katie Guinn announced the public comment portion of the meeting, Brazell put a white earbud in his right ear.

Brazell is an avid supporter of the Woodward Park project.

“I was not watching him, so I don’t know when he started using the earbuds or when he started playing music, but when the music got loud enough to interrupt the meeting, that’s when I noticed,” said Chairwoman Guinn.

When the 12th speaker in line was called to the podium, Brazell plugged both ears with matching headphones. The speaker was Matthew Hutchison of Cassatt, a staunch opponent of the Woodward Park project.

“I’m in a unique position to understand some of the issues that we’re facing in Kershaw County with our first responders,” said Hutchison to WIS.

Rather than a recreation park, Hutchison believes $10 million should go towards five preexisting EMS stations throughout the county. This, as well as the installation of two additional stations in the area.

Hutchison pointed out severe infrastructure issues across KC EMS Station No. 1 following our interview in Camden on Friday.

He was prepared to address his opinions without interruption during last week’s Public Comment. Instead, Chairwoman Guinn paused Hutchison while trying to get Brazell’s attention.

“Mr. Brazell, can I have your attention, please, or are you listening to something else,” said Hutchison at the podium after Guinn called for Brazell’s participation twice.

After calling on Brazell a total of three times, Guinn ordered Councilman Sammie Tucker to tap his shoulder.

“The word that came to mind was disrespectful. I felt disrespected as a man, I felt disrespected as a citizen of this county, and everybody in the room, I’m sure, felt the same way. Even the other council members, who are probably embarrassed by that behavior,” continued Hutchison to WIS.

After a pleasant phone call with Brazell, he emailed this statement to WIS which has not been altered:

“First of all, I would like to say I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you regarding this. From time to time humans make mistakes. I’m one of those humans. Without forgiveness and Grace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we would never be able to embrace moments like this. My intention with my earbud use was to assist in hearing in a crowded room. The older I get the harder it is to hear. Unfortunately, I later chose to use them to tune out a couple of individuals that consistently bring negativity to our community. I have seen negative statements about our sheriff’s child posted online as well as my own children. You know it’s ok to poke fun at a public official but I find it disgusting to make derogatory comments about children. Ultimately I made a mistake and I own that mistake. Ignoring an individual is not the answer. I apologize to the citizens of Kershaw County that I represent for doing a poor job that Tuesday night. I will do better and this county deserves the best of me.”

Brazell is not Hutchison’s district representative. The next KC council meeting is on March 28.

You can watch Hutchison’s full speech before the Kershaw County council from minutes 1:18:53 to 1:25:01 by clicking here. He’s interrupted at minute 1:23:18.

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