A meeting of Laurens County Council on Tuesday night became heated when discussion turned to a controversial county jail audit.
Officials now say initial reports that $40,000 a year was spent on an unused phone line is incorrect. Joey Avery, director of Laurens County 911 communications, said the figure was based on a monthly fee but a review of the data revealed a much lower exact number.
“The line was probably one-fifth the cost,” Avery said. “Those numbers came down when we put the realistic figures to it.”
Avery said the agency will continue to work with SpyGlass as the audit continues and will be working to determine which lines to disconnect. He said before information is released publicly in the future, it will be a focus on making sure all the data is complete first.
“This is what happens when someone takes bits and pieces of information and runs with it,” said council chairman Joe Wood Jr. “It creates disturbances. This county is run very efficiently.”
During the meeting, Wood addressed a 25-year Clinton resident, Brenda Stewart, who wrote a public letter about her concerns on the SpyGlass audit. In the letter, Stewart said “it appears that Mr. Pitts and Mr. Woods [sic] are more concerned with what SpyGlass will make as a result of the arrangement and NOT how this process will save the County significant money going forward.”
Stewart said the county’s citizens need someone to “mind the shop” in a message about leadership and accountability.
WATCH: Outburst erupts among councilmen at Laurens County audit meeting**WARNING: Video contains some profanity**
Wood said the letter was “full of inaccurate information” and said it would appears she gets her information from social media. While speaking, Wood said “I’ve asked you to sit back down” which was greeted by shouts of “let her speak.”
Wood denied numerous claims in Stewart’s letter, saying he “really took offense” to claims regarding county officials and department heads. He continued, insinuating Stewart had received her information from “little birds” and her knowledge of SpyGlass meant she needed to focus on her own business affairs.
After Stewart said, “You are the reason we have these problems.”
During Wood’s comments, councilman Stewart Jones of District 4 stood up and said the meeting was “a joke.” His sudden interjection was met by applause from some citizens in attendance.
“I’m leaving,” Jones shouted to Wood. “I’m not paying taxes to you… I’m not doing this.”
Wood asked Sheriff Don Reynolds, who was present at the meeting, to escort Jones out of the chambers after his outburst.
“I’ll come sit beside of him,” Reynolds said, encouraging Wood to give Stewart and opportunity to be heard. The sheriff said felt Stewart was being “singled out.”
Discord continued in the room as the council moved to adjourn the meeting.
Copyright 2017 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.