When is enough enough?

Dear Editor,

When’s enough enough, Bamberg County Council? How many more times and in how many different ways must you publicly show your incompetence and embarrass the good people of this county? Your obvious poor business acumen, lack of long-range planning, and inept personnel decision-making have made us a laughing stock to those familiar with responsible local government.

Your oh so many missteps leading to the filing of bankruptcy and ultimate closure of the Bamberg County Hospital are now infamous and all but too numerous to recount. You sold our profitable nursing home for $3 million (without issuing bids) and quickly went through the money to prop up the hospital. You spent another $750,000 in county reserves on the hospital while creating a revolving door of hospital administrators. Meanwhile, you paid (and still owe) a consulting firm hundreds of thousands to find a buyer for the hospital rather than following your own procurement procedures of issuing an advertised request for proposals from qualified companies. And for all this, you ended up welcoming a buyer that had never owned or operated an acute care hospital, that promised our citizens an urgent care facility that it closed within 60 days of your ribbon-cutting photograph, and that has sued the county for millions. Did you ever perform a background check, ask for audited company financial statements, or even seek a Dunn & Bradstreet report on the buyer? Do the words “due diligence” mean nothing to you?

Our proud county citizens have agreed to give you an extra $1 million a year through an additional penny sales tax to keep the county courthouse from crumbling to the ground; they should have never been put in this position. Had Council corrected its myopic vision, it would have set aside funds year-to-year in a long-range capital fund to take care of this and other inevitable fiscal challenges.

You either forced out or fired our previous county administrator with no public explanation as to why she left. Now you’ve hired for $100,000 a year someone with a dubious reputation at best. He’s being sued for $1.1 million by his previous employer (Anderson County), is being investigated by the S.C. Attorney General’s office, helped facilitate with or without his knowledge a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme, and admittedly had a longtime extramarital affair with a county employee he supervised. This is the person you chose to be the face of our county government and to oversee our valued county employees? Did you not perform a thorough background check? If not, is there no moral turpitude clause in your contractual agreement in order to opt out?

With your oversight, the county is now running a budget deficit. We suffer chronic double-digit unemployment. Our county population is one of the few in the state that declined in the last census (thus our tax base likewise continues to shrink). The new penny sales tax you sought can only hurt our county retailers. And of course with no hospital or even a 24-hour urgent care facility, what new industry would want to bring its people here?

And yet in these difficult economic times, a Council member actually wants taxpayers to fund a walking trail and/or “wellness park” you’d have to drive to reach and with no regard to the ongoing expenses involved in maintaining such a boondoggle at the end of an airport landing strip?

Thank goodness two of Council’s seven members opted not to seek re-election and will be replaced in January. Hopefully the new members will come with a sense of fiscal urgency, much improved human resources and business skills, and a focused vision for the future.

Remember the fable about his subjects finally recognizing the emperor wore no clothes? Perhaps Bamberg County citizens are at a similar point of realization. For Bamberg County Council has proven time and again it sits butt-naked before the public and the media donned only in incompetence and self-serving agendas.

Walt Inabinet, Bamberg, SC