Legislators declare 'no confidence' in Recreation Commission board

Published: Aug. 31, 2016 at 1:41 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2016 at 12:17 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Ten members of Richland County's Legislative Delegation have signed a letter calling for the resignation of several members of the Richland County Recreation Commission.

The letter demands a response by Thursday and specifically targets five members of the commission, including the Chairwoman J. Marie Green and Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mickens. In revealing the letter Wednesday, lawmakers in the delegation cited those board members' support for embattled Recreation Commission Executive Director James Brown III.

They also said the calls for resignation have nothing to do with ongoing SLED and FBI investigations looking into possible criminal misconduct at the commission, but stemmed from a history of malfeasance including nepotism, a lack of oversight, sexual harassment allegations and steep spending on legal expenses to address workplace problems at the commission.

"We tried a lot of different approaches, and nothing has worked," Rep. Joe McEachern said. "We called. We wrote them. We literally got to a point where we had to demand. This is what we need."

The delegation's complaints, and demands for change, find a receptive audience among some county residents frustrated with the parks system.

"A lot of people are checking out. They are so frustrated with the lack of improvement," said Ian Hamilton, Richland County father of two children and sometime soccer coach.

Hamilton declared himself unsurprised by the accusations against members of the commission.

"Most people who have experienced Richland County Recreation Commission facilities are disappointed and that's an understatement. And this is a very bitter icing on a terrible cake," he said.

The delegation members revealed their initiative following a similar announcement fellow Richland County Rep. Mia McLeod on Monday, in which she called for the resignation of the five commission members and called for Brown's resignation, too

"When the commissioners start putting their interests, and those interests of Mr. Brown above the interests of the citizens of Richland County, we say it must stop," Rep. Beth Bernstein said. "And demand the resignations today."

Some members of the delegation say the demands are premature because the  SLED and the FBI investigations are still not finished. Delegation members calling for the resignations say their demands have nothing to do with those investigations and, rather, are based on mismanagement at the commission they say has been amply and publicly documented.

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