In Brief: July 17, 2013

The president of Mast General Store, Fred Martin, wrote a letter to Columbia City Council members about safety issues stemming from the homeless population downtown, The State reported.

The store has become a staple on Main Street and over the last two years marked a turning point for the revitalization by attracting other business and residences to the area. It is also located around the corner from the Oliver Gospel Mission, a site that provides food and nightly shelter for many of Columbia’s homeless.

Martin expressed worries about how staff members and guests “no longer feel safe even within the confines of our building.”

Mayor Steve Benjamin acknowledged the problem, but said that he wasn’t aware of any specific incidents inside of the store to cause employees or customers to feel unsafe.

Benjamin and Councilman Cameron Runyan are working on a six-step plan to address homelessness, but have noted that cutbacks in state and federal spending have only made the problem worse.

—Maxwell Bauman, Copy Desk Chief

A Columbia Police Department Captain was suspended Monday and later accused interim Chief Ruben Santiago of asking him to help in a plot to get a city official fired, The State reported.

The alleged scheme would have planted a stolen gun and cocaine in the car of Senior Assistant City Manager Alison Baker, who would be fired, promoting then-Chief Randy Scott to Baker’s position and making Santiago chief, a sworn affidavit by former Capt. Dave Navarro alleged. The affidavit also said Navarro contacted City Manager Theresa Wilson and the police department’s internal affairs before going to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. In response, Santiago and Wilson held one-on-one meetings with members of the media Monday, denying the charges.

SLED opened an investigation into the allegations Tuesday. Santiago said Navarro was fired for failing to report for work, recording phone calls and spreading rumors. Navarro has been suspended without pay and the police department has opened an investigation of his actions while at the department.

— Amanda Coyne, Editor-in-Chief

Gov. Nikki Haley has been fined and issued a “public warning” by the South Carolina Ethics Commission for not reporting addresses of eight 2010 campaign donors, The State reported.

The fine of $3,500 is the result of a now-resolved complaint filed by a former South Carolina Democratic Party employee in 2011. The employee, Bridgett Tripp, now works for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Kershaw County, as well as state Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Fairfield.

The commission had been negotiating with Haley and her attorneys for two years and planned a public hearing for last July, but it was canceled after Haley “indicated to the commission her desire to resolve this matter without the burden of a hearing,” The State reported.

Commission chairman Phillip Florence, Jr. said that the commission and the governor wanted to avoid the expensive and lengthy process of a hearing.

Tripp’s original complaint accused Haley or failing to disclose the occupations of 2,354 contributors and the addresses of 45 over a nine-month period.

— Amanda Coyne, Editor-in-Chief

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