Wagener councilman responds to reported dispute with mayor
A Wagener Town Councilman is responding to allegations made against him in a story published in Saturday's Aiken Standard.
Aiken County Sheriff's deputies were called to the Wagener Town Hall on Feb. 20 after a dispute between Mayor Michael Miller and Town Councilman Joey Black. The report stated the dispute was over a paycheck Black believed he was owed for his service as a councilman.
Black was allegedly harassing Miller and officers on the town police force, according to the report.
Black told the Aiken Standard that the town clerk told him on Feb. 19 to come collect his check. While he was there, Black said Miller came out of his office and confronted him.
“He starts hollering,” Black said. “He turns around to Tina and says 'call 911.'”
Black said the dispute was a result of an incident that happened Feb. 17 while he was cleaning limbs out of his yard after the ice storm. He said his truck was parked in front of his home while he loaded limbs, and that a Wagener police officer wrote him a ticket for illegally parking on a dead-end street.
“I told him to get out of my yard,” Black said. “The mayor was mad because of the way I talked to the police officer.”
Black said Miller drove past his home minutes before the officer approached him.
“He sent his cop buddy to my house to write me a ticket for being illegally parked while I was loading limbs up,” he said.
Miller said the Town received reports of a power line down in the area that morning, and that's why he was there.
“(Black) said I orchestrated the police charging him with illegal parking when he's blocking the entire right lane of what he calls a secondary road,” Miller said.
The report states that Black had previously made comments that he is “always within arm's reach of a gun,” though he was not armed during the incident. Black said he doesn't have a concealed carry permit, and that the allegation is false.
Miller alleged in the report that Black has been harassing not only him but town police officers through social media postings. Black told the Aiken Standard he took a photograph of the patrol car parked outside his home when he got the parking ticket and posted it on Facebook.
Miller said he had been at a meeting in Aiken the night before the altercation at Town Hall, and stopped at Town Hall on the way home that night to take care of a few things.
“Officer (Jeremy) Hill was getting out of his truck when I pulled in,” Miller said. “We talked walking up the steps, I went into my office, he went to the police office.”
Miller said he wasn't there long, but less than 15 minutes after returning home, someone texted him a picture of his truck and the patrol vehicle parked outside Town Hall, which Black reportedly posted on Facebook.
“Everybody says Facebook is benign, but it's like beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder,” Miller said. “That, to me, told me somebody was following me.”
Surveillance footage shows a truck pull up outside the building, and two bright flashes come from the vehicle, according to Miller, who called the video “eerie.”
Black said he blocked Miller on Facebook, and that Miller created a fake profile to view his postings; however, Miller said that's false.
The sheriff's report indicated that Black hasn't been at a Town Council meeting since October, and that he's made multiple verbal resignations from the council and therefore, wasn't entitled to pay.
“In January, he instructed the town clerk, with witnesses, not to write him anymore checks,” Miller said, adding that Black also posted on Facebook that he was resigning because of “underhanded things” he alleged were happening in the town.
“I did say I was going to resign from the council, but I haven't typed up a resignation letter,” Black said, adding that he plans to resign. “The only way you resign from something is, you have to put it in writing.”
Black said he hasn't been to a Town Council meeting since October, and that he was usually either on vacation or out of town when the meetings occurred.
Additionally, he said he felt the law wasn't applied fairly in his parking case, and he referenced an incident in October during which a man pulled over in Wagener who reportedly appeared to be impaired and was speeding was not charged because his father is a town councilman.
“The councilman comes up to get his son, and they're writing me a ticket for loading branches into my truck on a dead-end road,” Black said. “Why do they let that go … but write me a ticket?”
Miller declined to comment on the comparison.
“There's a pending investigation into both manners,” he said. “I'm sure that will be taken care of, but that's not being handled here in Wagener.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard.