Questions About the Vote

Clinton City Council last evening unanimously gave first-reading approval on an ordinance to dissolve the Clinton Department of Public Safety. The called meeting was brief, with no council discussion about the change. After the meeting ended, several reporters gathered around City Manager Bill Ed Cannon and questioned him regarding the lack of discussion. The reporters were Larry Franklin of the Clinton Chronicle, Judith Brown of the Laurens County Advertiser and Randy Stevens of WLBG Radio.

Concern was expressed to Mr. Cannon that the complete absence of any input or question from any member of council would seem to indicate that there had been much discussion on the topic in something other than open session. As Mr. Cannon began to answer the question, former Public Safety Officer Scotty Peay approached council while all members were still seated in council chambers and asked to address them.

The Mayor and members of council seemed somewhat reluctant, explaining that the meeting had ended, but eventually they did listen as Mr. Peay outlined his concerns. He told council that this was an important decision and he felt that the decision was being made in a “fly by night” manner. He asked questions. When was the latest large drug bust in Clinton? How many fire trucks does the city have? He told council that as leaders of the city who had just voted to make sweeping changes in the provision of law enforcement and firefighting services for the city they should know the answers. He asked the City Manager if he had been to the Department of Public Safety, if he’d ever done a ride along with an officer or had been on the scene of a fire call.

The atmosphere became more and more tense until finally Mr. Peay left council chambers. As he did so, Mr. Cannon said, “at this point, unless they make me real mad, nobody going to lose a job”.

Larry Franklin then asked Mr. Cannon if he had ever seen a council make such an important decision with not one word of discussion. He replied “Sure. That’s what they’re elected for.” He said they had all the information they needed to make the decision.

Randy Stevens asked if the information he referred to was contained in his presentation before council last night.  Cannon responded that it was not, but that he had met with council members, sometimes one on one and sometimes with up to three at one time over the past several months to explain why he wanted to make this change. He said, “I think by law I can talk to three at one time can’t I?”

Larry Franklin then asked “Why would you want to do that? That’s getting around the law.” In response, Mr. Cannon erupted in anger.

Here’s Mr. Cannon’s response to Larry Franklin with the profanity edited out: “That’s a idiotic statement. Getting around the law. The law says if I talk to three I don’t have a quorum. You and I gone fall out Larry if that (S***) comes out in the paper.” Larry Franklin replied “Well, we done fell, baby”.

Mr. Cannon responded “Alright, baby, you’ll get nothing out of me. That’s about as idiotic a (D***) statement as I ever heard. I’m through talking to you.” He then offered to answer any further questions from Mrs. Brown or Mr. Stevens. When they indicated they had none, he continued comments to Larry Franklin. “When somebody tells me how government runs that’s a (D***) newspaper writer, don’t know it. I’ve done it for 22 years. I do know it. And I’m also a professional engineer and I know how to do that too.” Mr. Cannon was reportedly heard giving an expletive-enhanced comment as he left council chambers.

Mayor Bob McLean then approached all three reporters and apologized for the outburst. As the reporters were leaving, the Mayor again approached and asked that they stay for a moment so that Mr. Cannon could speak with them. Cannon approached and explained that he’d been dealing with more than they knew. He then asked that all three reporters come to his office so that he could show them a videotape but that the tape could not be published in any way. All three reporters declined to view the tape since it was not something the public was being allowed to see. As the discussion was continuing a heavy thunderstorm rolled into Clinton ending the conversation.