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McCorkle says he was unaware of monetary limit

McDuffie County Commissioner Paul McCorkle says he was not made aware of a monetary limit on elected officials' business with the county until late last year and has not done business with the county since.

In a telephone interview Monday, McCorkle said County Manager Don Norton made him aware of the $800 per quarter limit in November. McCorkle had been in office since Jan. 1, 2009.

If Norton knew about the limit, McCorkle said Monday, "why did he wait 22 months to tell me about it?"

Asked that Monday, Norton said, "I didn't know about it, either."

He said he learned about the limit in conferring with the county attorney as he researched the issue.

Norton said he plans no further action on the matter.

"I hope this is resolved," he said, noting that he has no desire to be involved in a conflict with a county commissioner.

McCorkle's business, Interstate Equipment Co., is the local franchise dealer for Case Corp., an agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer. He said he has no plans to do any further business with the county.

"I'm not going to be a policeman," he said.

According to a report last week by WJBF-TV (Channel 6), McCorkle did more than $27,000 in business with the county between December 2009 and the end of last year.

However, three other commissioners said last week that they also were unaware of the $800 per quarter limit until this year.

In January, County Attorney Sammy Fowler briefed the commission on two statutes that regulate business by elected officials with the county.

Commission Chairman Charles G. Newton IV and Commissioner William Jopling said they were unaware of the $800 limit until Fowler mentioned it.

Fowler said last week that he had told commissioners it would be best not to do business with the county at all. But, he said, if they did, they should stay within the $800 per quarter limit or obtain commission approval for a cost that is as low as or lower than it would be elsewhere.

Asked whether McCorkle had violated the law, Fowler would not comment, noting that the commission asked him to explain only the statutes.

Another commissioner, the Rev. Fred Favors, said McCorkle is not the only member of the board whose company has violated the limit.

"The chairman has two companies that have exceeded that amount," he said, adding, however, that he also was unaware of the $800 limit until recently.

Favors said, however, that he is not sure that McCorkle violated the law.

Newton said his family owns McDuffie Feed Seed & Fertilizer, which has done business with the county for years, but that he is not affiliated with the business now.

He works for MFS Grading, which has done business with the city of Thomson, but not with McDuffie County, he said.

Jopling said that after the January meeting he urged McCorkle not to have further business dealings with the county.

"He hasn't been doing business that I know of since then," Jopling said. "I did not want anybody associated with the board to be in violation of anything. I was in hopes that there was no violation."

District Attorney Dennis Sanders was in court Tuesday, and a voice mail message requesting comment from him was not returned.

Web posted on Thursday, April 28, 2011

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