Council Trip To Europe
By Alex Saitta
February 26, 2018
I read about and it has been confirmed the county council and administration arranged a ďbusinessĒ trip to Europe a couple of weeks ago. Councilmen Roy Costner and Chris Bowers went, along with the county attorney Ken Roper, economic director Ray Farley and tourism director John Pitts. I saw the itinerary and the cost of the plane tickets, hotel and rental cars. Likely there will be personal expenses theyíll submit to the county administration to pay as well.
Costner and Bowers took their wives along and this indicates to me this was more like a personal trip that is being sold as a business trip. One stop was a guided tour of the Castle of Bruchsal (Germany), then they were off to the Jukebox Museum. That day was capped off with a wine tasting event and dinner. Kind of like Trump and Melania doing international diplomacy for Pickens County, I guess.
I was sent on business trips abroad when I worked on Wall Street. I never took my wife. I had business meetings all day, maybe a business dinner, if not I sat in my hotel room alone. It was not a vacation. No museums or even a free day enjoy the place like I saw on their itinerary. It was a business trip.
There are 1,000 things they could have done in or around Pickens County with this money to effectively promote tourism. Go ask anyone of the volunteers who work to promote the Hagood Mill or the Azalea Festival how they could have used that amount of money.
I am floored by their sense of self-privilege, how they took advantage of their positions, and this abuse of public tax dollars.
We didnít hear about this trip from a councilman or their councilís new public relations director. Oh no, but from a citizen on Facebook.
Why didnít the other council members like Wes Hendricks, Ensley Feemster or the rest try to stop this? Or at least tell the public about it? They didnít and said nothing. Likely they just didnít want to stand up to the council leadership. Or maybe they were planning to go on the next trip.
Just because the council voted in their budget to allocate dollars to promoting tourism, doesnít mean the council leaders and administration can do with the money what they please and call it tourism. Letís say the chairman wanted to use the money to create a pamphlet on why Nazis should visit Pickens County. Under new business a councilman could bring it up, ask to see the draft, and say this is not justified and make a motion to stop it.
I faced the same nonsense at the start of the building program when Superintendent Dr. Lee DíAndrea and some school board members took trips around the country to look at high school designs. I asked about it at the next meeting, in public, asking who went, where did they go, why and the cost? I didnít make any friends, but the public needed to know how their tax dollars were being wasted.
They all brag how they are so united and all is going so much better. I now see what they mean; theyíre united in silence, particularly when this type of stuff is going on.
Most of the public does not have the time to attend county council meetings nor has access to what these guys talk about in executive session. We elect the councilmen to be our eyes, ears and voices. If our representatives are blind, deaf and mute to things that are going on like this, just because they are now all friends or fear political retribution, they donít belong on the council representing us.
The bottom line is we donít want any councilmen globe-trotting the world or the country for that matter in the name of tourism. We can see the rest of the council isnít going to object, so citizens are going to have to step up and hold them accountable.