If you were worried that people of good conscience would follow the lead of Dr. Wayne Beam and resign from the former Coastal Council, you might be gratified to know you were right.
Five of the eight board members have quit in disgust because the state agency has been downsized to nearly nothing. When it was the Coastal Council, the agency's board used to meet regularly to issue permits for coastal construction. Its board is now the Coastal Zone Management Appellate Panel, and has been relegated to hearing appeals from administrative law judges. It has met only twice this year.
"It's not really a functioning board" said longtime board member Linwood Altman. Altman is staying on with the hope of getting the legislature to restore the council to its former status. "If changes aren't made, I don't see any reason for it to exist," he said.
In July, Reese Joye, a Charleston lawyer who's best known for his book 101 Ways to Avoid a DUI Conviction, was chosen over five other candidates to serve on the panel. His reason for wanting to serve, according to his application, is because "I live on the marsh in Charleston Harbor. I recognize the beauty/value/importance of coastal matters and concerns."
He also stated on the application that he has never had any involvement with this board or commission.
When Joye filed his application on July 10, he had previously been found guilty of "intentionally constructing a bulkhead (in front of his home on the marsh) without a permit" and was appealing the administrative law judge's ruling that his crime was a "major violation" that warranted a $400 fine. Joye observed in court that he was being singled out for such a high fine because he drives a big car.
On July 21, the same day that Joye learned he was to be appointed to the OCRM Appellate Panel, he dropped his appeal to the very panel he was just appointed to and agreed to pay a $300 fine.
OCRM also has an investigation underway into possible illegal filling of wetlands by Joye, and it appears that the dock at his home is not permitted and will have to come down.
The pluff mud hit the fan when the Charleston media reported that Joye is an environmental scofflaw. The legislative delegation that appointed Joye was trying to cover its ineptitude and making noises about a hearing on the matter when Joye resigned.
The Ethics Reform Act has a hole in it wide enough for several fat politicians to link arms and waddle through. The Act was crafted in 1991, after the legislators who weren't indicted in operation Lost Trust worked themselves into an ethical frenzy.
The legislature decided that since the governor appoints the Ethics Commission, it's an agency of the executive branch and shouldn't be poking around in its affairs. Accordingly, the House and Senate have their own ethics committees.
The committees operate under rules of strict secrecy. The Senate Ethics Committee doesn't even tell its colleagues when one of their own has been found guilty of unethical conduct. Several years ago, Sen. Sherry Martschink was found guilty of using her office for private gain and was given a private reprimand. When the Senate later approved Martschink for the Workers' Compensation Commission, a $70,000 job, senators didn't know of her ethical transgressions.
When Common Cause Director John Crangle tried to get the House Ethics Committee to investigate questionable campaign expenditures by Rep. John Felder (R-Calhoun), it was less than receptive. Crangle was told by committee chair Rep. Becky Meacham (R-York), that he would have to submit sworn affidavits documenting violations before the committee could investigate. Felder's own campaign disclosure statements to the committee listed what appeared to be improper expenses.
"That's like requiring a citizen who witnesses a crime to conduct their own investigation and prepare an indictment before they can call the cops," Crangle said.
Columbia College political science professor Bob Moore has filed a federal law suit against the secrecy provisions of both ethics committees. Crangle, Moore's lawyer, expects the court to "knock down the confidentially provisions" and make legislators do their laundry in public.
If you thought he was a hoot in the South Carolina legislature, imagine the yuks Mike Fair could get in the U.S. Congress.
Fair, a Greenville Republican legislator for 12 years, is running for the congressional seat Bob Inglis is leaving to run against Sen. Fritz Hollings. Unlike some politicians who turn straight and narrow only when it is politically wise to do so, Fair has always been straight and narrow.
He is best known for the stacks of bills he has introduced that deal with sex. A recent bill called for jail time and fines for men caught in public with "discernibly turgid penises." Fair has sponsored many bills that advocate treating homosexuality as a crime.
Fair proposed rewriting the 1988 Comprehensive Health Education Act to delete all mention of "responsible sexual behavior." To Fair there is no such thing outside of marriage.
Fair's best show was when he subpoenaed a plastic penis that sex educators used to teach teenagers about condom usage. He forced the device to appear at an education committee meeting.
Although the election is over a year away, Fair announced that Ralph Reed, the political brain of the Christian Coalition, will manage his campaign. Reed has left the Coalition to do political consulting, and Fair is one of his first customers.
Howell Clyborne, a Greenville banker who left a lackluster career in the House to work for Gov. David Beasley, is also running. When Clyborne ran in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor in the last general election, he came in nearly last in the areas he would need to carry to win the congressional seat. While Clyborne leads the campaign money race, his coziness with Beasley hurts him.
Jim Demint is the man Bob Inglis picked to replace him, but he has no name recognition. Conservatives are mad at Inglis because he criticized the Republican's southern strategy, which he called racist, and for his position on the flag, which he wants to come down. Demint's coziness with Inglis hurts him.
Frank Holleman, a Greenville lawyer and former chair of the state Democratic Party, looks like his party's best shot to beat Fair. Holleman just completed a job with the Clinton Administration. He has terrific Democratic credentials, which may be a liability in his home town.
A Fair victory can be expected to increase the demand for closet space throughout the district.
To prove that we are not being hyperbolic in suggesting that the Greenville area is in the grip of a horrible mass psychosis, we bring you the latest incident of secondary homophobia.
The Rev. Stan Craig, head of the Citizens for Traditional Family Values, recently picketed the Greenville News, complaining that the comic strip For Better or Worse promoted "homosexuality as a normal life-style." The internationally syndicated strip often explores the challenges of modern family life. Since 1993, one of the bit players in the strip has been a gay teenager.
The News, refusing to be cowed by a small band of fanatics, ran the comic. But just in case the fanatics might represent a larger number of subscribers, the News moved the strip to the police reports page for three days.
When Joe Dill lost an ugly race for Greenville County School Board, he blamed "downtown money lovers and child haters." Dill's position on corporal punishment in public schools (he's all for it) seems to have hurt him in November.
In appreciation for his "spare the rod, spoil the child" philosophy, the Greenville County Council has appointed Dill to the county's Human Relations Commission.
NAME THAT SLEAZEBALL!
This month's Sleazeball has constructed a scheme to use your tax dollars to push his religious agenda. While he acknowledges his pre-born-again peccadillos, his message to kids is: "Do as I say, not as I did." Be the first caller to identify this Sleazeball and win a free trial subscription to POINT.
Last month's Sleazeball, Gov. Beasley, vetoed $125,000 for teen pregnancy prevention councils because they taught "responsible sexual behavior."