On Friday, South Carolina news station WIS said that Councilman Kamau Marcharia called police on three citizens who dared ask questions of elected officials prior to a county council meeting.
According to the incident report, Marcharia told deputies he wanted three citizens removed because they were conducting interviews.
Council was meeting at Fairfield County’s Commerce Park to talk about picking a new county administrator. The main thing on the agenda was an executive session, a session where members of the public aren’t allowed in.
“We had no intention of staying. We had no intention of being there while the executive session was on or when they were in executive session. Our intention was to simply come, be a voice, and say, ‘Look, this is an important issue,'” said Jeff Schaffer, another one of the citizens.
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A copy of the 911 call was obtained by one of the citizens through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“We need an officer down here now!” Marcharia said in the recording. “They’re intervening in the process even though we haven’t gone into executive session! They’re in there questioning us an demanding information, and they need not be here!”
Beth Jenkins, one of the three citizens involved, said she felt that Marcharia abused the 911 system.
“They do have more important things to do,” she said.
WIS said Jay Bender, an attorney for the South Carolina Press Association and a First Amendment expert, listened to the recorded call.
“That’s overwhelming ignorance and arrogance,” he said. “To think that a council member, before a meeting has been convened, is calling the police because citizens are asking questions. That’s comical!”
Moreover, he said , it’s illegal.
“The law requires the meeting to be convened in public. Then, if you want to go into executive session, there has to be a motion. If the motion is successfully adopted, then there has to be a statement of the specific purpose. Then, the executive session can be held,” he explained.
A source on council told WIS that Councilman Marcharia had “no justification to call police,” since “there was never a threatening gesture or behavior” from the three citizens. That councilperson said Marcharia should be held accountable for calling 911 for no good reason. The councilperson described Marcharia’s behavior as “very erratic” and “desperate.”
“He wanted them out of there and nowhere around him,” the council source said.
Marcharia wouldn’t go on-camera, but claimed he was threatened by the three citizens asking questions and felt he needed to call authorities.
The case is considered closed and the three will not be charged, said Fairfield County Sheriff Will Montgomery.
Here’s a video report of that incident, courtesy of WIS:
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