Tax opponents claim county withholding information

Michael Letts

COLUMBIA (WACH) - Richland County resident Michael Letts spent the past few weeks wrangling with county officials regarding a freedom of information request. Letts wants the minutes from the city-county ad-hoc committee meeting studying the region's transportation needs, but was only given the agendas from a few of the county's meetings.

"We have no idea what was discussed in those meetings, we have no idea whether there were other funding options made available to them," Letts says. "All of that is being held in the dark, and it creates a sense of a lack of trust."

A referendum to raise the sales tax from seven to eight percent is on next month's ballot. Supporters say the revenue will help fund upgrades to the bus system. County Spokeswoman Stephanie Snowden says minutes are not recorded in ad-hoc meetings because information from those meetings are eventually presented to county council. Letts says there is too much money at stake for the county not to be thorough.

"A committee is going to decide whether a billion dollars in taxes is needed, we need to see what the deliberations were, what evidence was proposed as to why it's necessary."

With a few weeks left until voters decide, Letts isn't giving up. "What we're going to do is continue to press and hold Richland County accountable, and because we feel like they're not being accountable we're going to press even harder to let the citizens of Richland County know this is a bad idea, and to vote no on the proposed penny sales tax."

Snowden says the county's attorney is reviewing whether minutes should be recorded during ad-hoc meetings.