Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Council took up the penny tax issue again Tuesday, considering several motions aimed at creating better oversight of the project, after a state-run audit raised questions about how the money was being spent.
Richland Councilman Seth Rose is the newest addition to the Transportation Ad Hoc Committee that oversees projects to the tax funds.
There are now four members on that committee. Councilmembers Norman Jackson and Kelvin Washington are no longer on the committee.
Washington was charged last month with not paying his personal taxes, but prosecutors say those allegations do not involve the misuse of public funds.
In mid-December, an audit by the South Carolina Department of Revenue claimed to have found potential evidence of public corruption and fraud within the Richland County Penny Program. Specifically, the auditors found fault with some of the procurement procedures--that is, the way the county contracts out services provided by the penny tax. It also said it found instances of illegal activity with individuals or companies associated with the program. Previous Coverage:Audit Claims Possible Fraud, Corruption with Penny Tax
Most of the motions Rose presented Tuesday were met with tough questions from Councilman Bill Malinowski, Norman Jackson, and Paul Livingston.
"The motion I submitted has to do with making the chairperson of the citizens watchdog committee an ex officio member of the committee you just watched, that has never been proposed" said Rose. Getting from them quarterly reports and a yearly audit.
That was referred back to committee, which means it will be discussed at a later date.
Another motion dealt with the public relations firms that the audit says is receiving $600,000. That motion was included in the budget.
"I made a motion that the transportation director meet with the program development team manager to discuss whether the public relations scope can be completely cut out of the penny tax program, scaled back or restructured in some way because I too have concerns about it" said Rose.
He also proposed for the staff to be eliminated as the middle man when selecting a top scorer, which is enacted now through the Significant Purchase Ordinance. That was denied.
Norman Jackson presented a motion to reconsider the role of the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee (TPAC), the Penny Tax Citizen Watchdog group. That was sent to budget.
The motion to have the Small Local Business Enterprises funded from the General Fund and not the penny tax also made it to the budget.