FOI - score one for the good guys
Situation: Fire commission holds closed meeting to fire the department's chief. Tosses out reporter. Apparently continues to violate S.C. Freedom of Information Act in other ways.
Action: Newspaper tries to get prosecutor, sheriff's department and State Law Enforcement Division to follow-up on possible criminal penalties (which are allowed under the law). Gets nowhere. Prosecutor, for instance, says it's a misdemeanor so not interested. Sheriff's department says arson investigators have to work with fire departments. SLED - well, it's just missing in action, apparently.
Action 2: Newspaper and its lawyer swear out their own warrant, and magistrate signs it! Apparently first time in state criminal charges sought.
Hooray! And great - but interesting - that it's one of the smaller papers in the state, not one of our big-time dailies.
Outcome: Hearing set for Sept. 21. My prediction - the fire commission folds like a cheap suit, issues mea culpas and gets slap on the wrist so we never really get to the heart of the matter. We can only hope the little Hometown News gives some of the larger papers in the state the kahunas to do the same thing. It's the only way the point will be driven home that this is the law.
(Update: Here's the AP story on it.)
Further Update: Fire commission chairman tells Spartanburg paper "We didn't know" the law.
(I've often said that if I ever win the lottery, one of the first things I will do is set up an FOI legal foundation to relentlessly pursue S.C. officials who seem to think the law is there to be ignored.)