Some Richland County Council members call for penny tax audit results to be released

Some say they had to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to look at the results in January

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WOLO) —Several Richland County council members want to bring to light where taxpayer dollars towards the Penny Transportation Project have gone.

This comes after some members say they had to sign a non disclosure agreement in order to view the findings of an audit.

In 2017, the Richland County Council called for the accounting firm Cherry Bekaert to do an audit on their Penny Transportation program.

Fast forward to January, where some council members say they could look at the results, but only if they signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Councilman Bill Malinowski said he reluctantly signed the agreement so he could look at the numbers, but he says the firm should not keep the results hidden.

“We asked you to do a service. We paid you to do that service. And if you did it, why don’t we just get it? Why do we have to jump through hoops so to speak to get information that we’ve paid you to provide us,” Malinowski said.

Councilman Joe Walker III put those calls into action by writing a letter to Cherry Bekaert and to Attorney General Alan Wilson to request a release of all relevant documents concerning the audit.

He says it’s the Council’s responsibility to keep their constituents in the loop.

“We turn around and report back to the public that, hey, there is a significant shortfall in this program, estimates range on the low end $50 million and on the high-end $154 million worth of projects that you voted for, that you

Several council members tell ABC Columbia that they are in favor of releasing the information, saying the public should not be kept in the dark when it comes to public transportation projects.

“It’s public money. It’s a public referendum, and now that we’re facing a tremendous shortfall within that program, and some of those promises are not going to be fulfilled, I think it’s important that the public knows exactly where those dollars went,” Walker said.

By writing the letter, Walker says that he wants the council to be seen as more transparent and without a dark cloud of mystery looming over their heads.

“Let’s get it done so this council can face forward, and get to the business of good governance,” said Walker.

In a statement, County Council Vice Chair Dahli Myers says she supports the release of the audit’s results, saying “all of the information related to the Program Development Team (PDT), the Transportation Penny and/or Richland County expenditures belongs to the public. It’s the public’s money.”

Councilwomen Chakisse Newton and Allison Terracio echoed similar sentiments, saying since the public’s money is being used, they should know the results of the audit.

“Richland County citizens deserve full and complete access to all information to taxpayer funded programs,” Newton said.

Cherry Bekaert did not return our request for comment.

At Thursday’s County Council Meeting, the Council voted 10-1 to have Chairman Paul Livingston send his own letter to the firm requesting all documents pertaining to the audit. 

Livingston did not respond to our request for comment.

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