He was ticked about roadwork… so he bought billboards targeting the sheriff. This battle is getting interesting.
What do you do when two county agencies are at the heart of an issue?
A Lexington County, South Carolina resident who was originally upset with the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) over a controversial road project is now going after county sheriff Jay Koon.
According to Craig Bowers, he called 9-1-1 on Friday, May 3, 2019 to report a pair of trespassers on his property – which is located next to the Leaphart Road bridge over Interstate 26 near West Columbia, S.C.
Bowers said the sheriff’s office waited more than two hours before dispatching deputies to respond to his call. Now Bowershas taken out billboards claiming Koon is denying his family law enforcement protection and services.
In a letter obtained by FitNews, Bowers wrote to Lexington County attorney Jeff Anderson, “the trespassers were subcontractors removing silt barriers for the SCDOT Leaphart Road bridge replacement project.”
You read that correctly, the trespassers were road workers. According to Bowers, he placed them on trespass notice two days earlier, on May 1, 2019.
“My conversation placing the subcontractor on trespass notice was recorded as was the trespassing,” Bowers’ letter continued, “They even admitted to the responding deputy that they trespassed, but the deputy flatly refused to do anything not even (file) a report. He claimed a trespass notice had to be done by certified mail or in the presence of law enforcement. It was clear this deputy was not going to help us one bit with a request for simple law enforcement.”
Let’s backtrack. What started all of this?
According to Bowers, the SCDOT bridge project has infringed upon his private property rights and imposed hardships upon his special-needs child.
“Our home and our neighbors’ homes were being damaged by vibration caused by a vibrating drum roller being operated in close proximity to our homes; the noise level in our yard was over 100 decibels; there was dust everywhere coating everything we own; and the smell of sulfur from the off road diesel fuel was ridiculous,” he wrote.
Continuing in his letter to Anderson:
“If the Sheriff’s Department does not want to address each of these issues, then we will retain a civil rights attorney to address the ongoing denial of law enforcement services. I have also purchased and parked several web domains…for websites that will expose everything, and I do mean absolutely everything that has happened to us and our neighbors.”
That’s right – his plan was to put them on blast online… and in public.
“I’m currently working on securing funding to lease roadside billboards starting in Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Greenville to promote this website with the intent of informing as many people as we can about what was allowed to happen in Lexington County. “
The county attorney responded via email to Bowers, informing him that his office was “not familiar with the situation and issues” related to his complaint, but that he would forward the email to the general counsel for the sheriff’s office “so that they will be aware of your concerns.”
Bowers then responded to Anderson that his attorney had already sent multiple letters to Sheriff Koon, who “never responded.”
“Sheriff Koon’s silence makes one wonder who he is protecting and serving because it certainly is not us or our neighbors,” Bowers wrote.
Bowers’ billboards immediately began drawing attention in Lexington County, but he told FitNews on Wednesday that he had agreed to temporarily suspend his contract with Grace Outdoor after Koon called the agency in the aftermath of a recent murder-suicide in the area.
“Koon called Grace outdoor today asking them to take down my message using the murder suicide as a reason,” Bowers said in speaking to the news outlet. “When contacted by Grace Outdoor, I agreed to a pause in the contract for a few days.”
“The billboards will be back up in a few days though,” he said.
While Bowers has the right to take out advertising on the billboards, is his target an appropriate one?
Should this be a matter for law enforcement, or should this be handled by the courts in a decision for either Bowers or SCDOT?
Is the Sheriff within his right to request the billboards be taken down, citing an unrelated matter as a reason?
Considering the circumstances, is a delayed response a civil rights issue? Should the sheriff’s office have responded sooner? Where should this matter be handled?