Beaufort County Council’s decision Tuesday, Oct. 13, to fire County Administrator Ashley Jacobs, the county’s first woman administrator, was wrong and yet another example of Council members serving their own interests and not the interests of citizens.
When Jacobs walks out that door, Beaufort County can say good-bye to integrity and accountability and welcome back the cronyism, secrecy, patronage and disorder that Jacobs was working (against the odds) to dismantle.
Concerned Citizens (and growing)
We the citizens of Beaufort County have a problem on our hands.
It’s clear that Paul Sommerville and Stu Rodman, who thrive when there is no one at the top, wanted Jacobs out of the way so they can return to the shadowy administrative chaos that better suits their political needs.
It is clear that Chairman Joe Passiment is easily led and fooled by the nefarious machinations happening right in front of him every single day.
It is clear that some Council members have been putting more energy into meddling with operations, encouraging strife and creating unnecessary fear and tensions among government staff than they have been putting into the commission of their actual elected duty, which is to legislate and create policy.
If we don’t step up now and let our voices be heard, our county — with its diverse, sophisticated and ever-growing needs — will continue to be run by legislators who routinely violate their own ordinances and act outside the normal public process of governance.
This council spends too much time worrying about how they look and not enough time learning how to be a functional and effective legislative body.
We have allowed them to indulge in their political games for far too long.
It has resulted in sickening amounts of taxpayer money spent on avoidable lawsuits, egregious and expensive delays, as well as questionable and lucrative contracts that benefit the vendor more than the county.
It is hampering progress that could affect generations to come.
Most disturbingly, the Beaufort County Council has created an unsafe working environment for women. When Beaufort County Treasurer Maria Walls sought a reasonable solution to the ongoing harassment and stalking she experienced by Beaufort County Auditor Jim Beckert, Jacobs was one of the only people in the county who supported her. The Council continue to do nothing despite the objections of their own County Administrator, whose experience far outweighs their own.
Thanks to repeated news coverage, we now know that Beckert has a history of abusive behavior toward women. We also now know these complaints continued since 2014 and were made to the entirety of Beaufort County Council, as well as the former County Administrators Gary Kubic and former Interim County Administrator Josh Gruber. By not not taking action against Beckert, the Council is simultaneously costing taxpayers money with inevitable lawsuits and sending a message that the women in our community don’t matter.
What’s it going to take for the Beaufort County Council to believe and respect women leaders?
The only reason certain members of the Council want Ashley Jacobs gone is because she holds them accountable. Most recently, the Council tried to hire their own Public Information Officer (PIO), a “public relations specialist,” to spin stories with the local media because they’re fed up with their own bad press. This would be a new position that would report to the Council, not the administration. In other words, Council’s PIO would not have any accountability outside of their own 11-member Council.
The citizens of Beaufort County should not have to pay for the Council’s public cover-up while they try to operate without full public transparency. Certain Council members worked behind Ashley Jacobs’ back to hire her own communications manager for this position, which is inappropriate and potentially illegal. Yet, the Council blames Ashley Jacobs for the resulting and avoidable press debacle when their preferred candidate’s racist and violent Twitter feed was made public by The Island Packet.
Sadly, this is only one example of how certain Council members assert their influence in the ongoing operations of the County and undermine the job of their own County Administrator..
Certain Council members repeatedly and purposefully place Ashley Jacobs in a negative light to distract from their own “bad press,” much of it stemming from issues that pre-existed her short tenure here.
These same members have encouraged and behind the scenes have contributed to a false narrative in motion that Jacobs is the culprit behind the toxic work environment that they themselves created.
The news coverage on Jacobs’ leadership recklessly played into their hands and relied on sources who have a bone to pick and an agenda to help carry out.
That agenda? To convince Jacobs’ supporters on Council that she is a problem. Stu Rodman and Paul Sommerville have called into question Ashley Jacobs position for more than a year. However, the Council has never conducted an inquiry or an investigation — which is the normal process when troubling allegations come to light. Why is that?
While Ashley Jacobs worked to fix a badly broken system with chronic personnel issues and outmoded and inefficient practices and while she managed 11 bosses, who each have their own demands, needs and motivations, she was fighting for our community.
Here’s how we know this. In just over a year:
- Ashley Jacobs created a central cashier’s system for the entire County to ensure efficiency and transparency in spending.
- Ashley Jacobs created the County’s first budget book, giving comprehensive look at how our County plans to spend taxpayer money in the upcoming fiscal year.
- Ashley Jacobs found $1 million in the budget for jobs that weren’t filled. This money was being allocated without purpose and without accountability.
- Ashley Jacobs instituted paid sick leave for the first time for County employees and was working on a paternity leave policy.
- Ashley Jacobs secured fair pay for the special needs adults who for years had been cleaning County buildings for less than minimum wage.
- Ashley Jacobs completed a compensation study to ensure that people are being paid what they’re supposed to be. In short, this study sets salaries so that people are paid equitably and fairly without being attached to sex, race, political affiliations and patronage. Acting against their own compensation study, the Council raised their own salaries during the pandemic despite Ashley Jacobs’ objections.
- Ashley Jacobs enacted a facility study to see what could be done to operate more energy efficient and to save money.
- Ashley Jacobs was reviving the delayed Penny Sales Tax Referendum projects, which were left ignored by the former Director of Environmental Engineering and Land Management, who is now suing her.
- Ashley Jacobs managed the County during COVID-19, making tough decisions on closures, mask mandates and safety for more than 1,000 employees.
- Ashley Jacobs dealt with lawsuits against the County that were filed long before she arrived.
- Ashley Jacobs created a diverse leadership team that reflected the integrity and passion for our community.
- Ashley Jacobs implemented security measures to protect the County’s expensive assets, including GPS devices to equipment.
- Ashley Jacobs demanded the shadow government end.
Accountability with our local government is vital for everyone in this county. While national politics are contentious and divisive, the Lowcountry deserves the right to trust our local government to operate for what’s in the best interest of the community. Unfortunately, the Beaufort County Council lacks the integrity that we deserve. Instead, their reckless and unethical behavior has gone unchecked for too long.
The Lowcountry is unlike any other place in the United States because people here are motivated by purpose. We love our home because our people strive to do the right thing.
That’s not what’s happening in Beaufort County government.
Therefore we demand measures be put into place that prohibit the Council from interfering with county administration, staff and day-to-day operations.
We demand the Council focus on the best interests of their constituents and to serve the community openly and with integrity. No more secrecy. No more scripting. No more games.
We demand accountability.
We demand that Council let Ashley Jacobs work.
Mary Agnes Garman
Mary Ann Burgeson
Jenifer Di Benedetto
Amber Vanloh Faust
Patricia Anne Denkler
Mary Ellen Keough
Dana Kindel Advocaat
Roland Windham, Jr.
Haley Lisk Romeo
Victoria Maloney Crocker
Anna Pinckney Graham
Lily Herndon Weaks
Dorsey St Clair
Walter Garfield III
Martha Anne McDonald
Angela Patricia Pedraza
Mary Kay Hoffmeister
April Van Name
William Shouse Jr
… a growing group of concerned citizens