Originally created 01/06/02

Rules on nepotism considered

Edgefield County Council will consider an ordinance Tuesday night to prohibit its council members from discussing, voting on or proposing contracts with family members.

The ordinance came about after the council's chairman, Charles Kneece Sr., did not recuse himself from discussions and votes on a janitorial contract his son's company, Carolina Cleaning, holds with the county. The contract expires June 30.

Mr. Kneece also has drawn criticism for voting to approve a contract with his son's company to collect, sort and sell recyclables for the Tri-County Solid Waste Authority, of which Mr. Kneece is also chairman.

On Dec. 12, Charles Kneece Jr. backed out of the recycling contract after it was discovered that he had been sending recyclables from Edgefield, Johnston and Saluda to the landfill. The authority decided to handle recycling in-house.

The ordinance, if approved, will establish Edgefield County Council's own definition of the term family member, going beyond the ruling by the South Carolina Code of Laws Ethics Act.

"I don't want us to put anybody in a position it appears Mr. Kneece was in with Tri-County," said Edgefield County Councilman Bill Vaughan, who proposed the ordinance with the backing of Councilman Willie Bright.

Mr. Kneece did not wish to comment on the ordinance Saturday.

Under the state Ethics Act, only members of the same household are required to leave the meeting room during discussion and voting when nepotism is in question.

If the Edgefield County ordinance passes, the new definition of family member will include anyone related to council members be it by blood or marriage. The family members would not have to live in the same house for the rules to apply.

Edgefield County Council desires to remove both real and perceived conflicts, according to the ordinance.

"I think it's best that we shy away from that practice. We just didn't have a policy in place and I think we need something," Mr. Bright said. "The ethics commission gave a ruling on the situation we are in, as far as Mr. Kneece. It is not against the law, but it looks bad."

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next: The Edgefield County Council will elect a new chairman at Tuesday night's meeting. Charles Kneece Sr. has been the chairman for nine years. The five-member council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the county council chambers on Jeter Street in Edgefield.


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