Thursday, March 30, 2017

Training teaches how to respond to an active shooter

With a rising number of active-shooter incidents, police departments aren't the only organizations undergoing training on how to respond. 
Cpl. David Spivey with the S.C. Department of Public Safety recently trained the whole Municipal Association staff and made presentations to the Association of SC Mayors and the Municipal Clerk Treasurers Association.

There were 20 active-shooter incidents in 2015 and 2014, up three from 2013, according to the FBI. The agency defines “active shooter” as one or more individual with a firearm actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.

Although it’s impossible to plan for every conceivable threat scenario, Spivey  said an organization’s employee buy-in is the key.

“Your employees have to understand what you’re trying to accomplish,” Spivey said. “They are there every day and they see the vulnerabilities. They know what needs to be looked at. They know when they feel unsafe and where they feel unsafe. Management and planning departments needs to talk with those individuals.”

How do you respond to an active shooter?

Spivey said there's no set way to respond to an active shooter. "Do whatever you need to do be safe."
  • Announce “active shooter” or other emergency using plain language. Do not use code words.
  • When a lockdown is announced, tell this to other employees in a clear, calm voice. Include temporary workers, custodial and others in the building. Do not allow re-entry to the building.
  • Run — Get away from the attacker fast. Do not stop to remove injured victims or to gather personal belongings. Keep your hands visible and at eye level as you exit the building.
  • Hide — Deny access. Take cover in a locked room. Turn off all lights and silence cell phones. Barricade the door with heavy objects. Stay away from windows and doors. Stay quiet.
  • Do not duck and cover 
  • Follow all police instructions immediately.
  • Fight — Defend yourself at all costs. Use what you have in the room to protect yourself - a stapler, a pen, computer monitor, fire extinguisher. Swarm the attacker. "All it takes is one brave soul," said Cpl Spivey. Throw things at the attacker's head. 
  • Call 911 Have one person call the police. Don't tie up the dispatcher with multiple calls. Provide an accurate description and specific location. Point out any suspicious devices or explosives.
Above all, Spivey said, "Have a plan. Then have another plan. Don't be scared to do something."
Demonstrating swarming an attacker
Spivey suggested having employees watch this video to learn the basics of being prepared for an active shooter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New rules affect Statement of Economic Interests filing: Easy-to-read flowchart explains changes

The annual Statement of Economic Interests disclosures are due on March 30 at noon. It’s a good time to finish gathering and organizing the information needed to complete the form because this year’s filing has a new requirement. 

Thanks to a bill passed in 2016, public officials are now required to disclose information about their income. This flowchart explains changes.

Officials must file their Statement of Economic Interests online covering the previous calendar year (January – December) by noon on March 30. Newly elected officials must also electronically file their SEI before being sworn in.

2016 legislation changes reporting requirements
The General Assembly made changes to the ethics laws during the 2016 legislative session. As a result, officials filing on or after January 1, 2017 must include the source and type of income the filer received. Income collected by the filer's immediate family during the past year must also be disclosed. Immediate family refers to the filer's spouse, any children in the household, and anyone claimed as a dependent on the filer's taxes for the previous year.

When determining whether something received in the last year qualifies as income, the filer should ask the following question: "Is it a thing of value reported or disclosed on an Internal Revenue Service form as income received?" 

If so, then the source and type of income should be disclosed on the SEI. This flowchart gives an easy outline to help officials determine what needs to be reported.

This new requirement does not require a public official to provide the amount or value of income received in the previous year, only the type (i.e. wages, tips, stock, etc.) and where it came from.

Some exemptions apply
Some sources are exempt from this new disclosure requirement. They include: deferred compensation as well as retirement, annuity, pension, IRA, disability income, and income received from a court order.

Officials may also exclude any savings, checking or brokerage accounts, as long they have not received special interest rates or other special terms as a result of their status as a public official, member or employee, as defined in Section 8-13-100(25)-(27) of the SC Code of Laws.

The Statement of Economic Interests must be filed electronically. The necessary forms are available from the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

Who is considered a 'public official'?
Among those affected include: 

  • anyone appointed to fill the unexpired term of a state or local elected official; 
  • candidates for state and local public office; 
  • the chief administrative official of each political subdivision, including water and sewer districts; 
  • city administrators, managers, supervisors or chief administrative official, by whatever title; 
  • chief finance and chief purchasing official of each agency, institution, or facility of state government, and of each county, municipality, or other political subdivision.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

FAQ: Impact of pension reform on S.C. cities and towns

The debate over the future of the state's pension systems has drawn substantial attention in recent weeks. 

This week, the House passed its budget that includes funding for 1 percent of the 2 percent increase in employer contributions. More details on the bills' status are in the March 3 issue of From the Dome to Your Home.

The FAQ below addresses many of the questions the Municipal Association staff has received from city officials and reporters about pension reform.

1 – What is the impact on South Carolina cities and towns of the proposal to increase employer contributions to the state pension programs 1 percent annually for the next six years? A conservative estimate is around $8.5 million annually for every 1 percent.*

2 – How many South Carolina cities and towns participate in the State Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System? Of the 270 cities and towns, 208 participate in SCRS and 181 police agencies participate in PORS.

3 – What does “unfunded liability” mean and how does it impact cities and towns? The unfunded liability means the difference between the amount that has been contributed to the system by employers, employees and investment gains and the amount that would be required to pay out benefits when due.

4 – How does the unfunded liability impact cities and towns? As required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB Statement 68), the Public Employee Benefit Authority allocates a portion of the total unfunded liability of the state pension system to each member city, and the city must show that liability on its financial statement.

A city’s portion of the $20 billion unfunded liability is based on the employer contributions remitted to the particular retirement system (SCRS or PORS) in proportion to total employer contributions to the plan.

Example:  PEBA allocates $15 million of the $20 billion unfunded liability to City A. City A must recognize this liability on its books just as it would recognize bonded indebtedness to build a new city hall. However, just like the bond debt for city hall, the $15 million unfunded pension liability is not an amount that the city would ever have to pay in a lump sum. 

5 – Do cities participating in the state pension programs have the ability to limit the growth in the unfunded liability? No. City councils have no authority to set employee or employer contribution rates, determine investments or determine retirement benefits. Therefore, councils have no ability to change the amount of the city's unfunded liability. 

6 – Can participating cities get out of the state pension programs? No. There is no legal mechanism for an employer to exit the retirement systems.

7 - How are the state pension programs funded? There are three sources of revenue for the retirement systems – investment income, employee contributions and employer contributions. If any source of funding doesn’t meet assumptions, the other sources must be increased to keep the system stable. 

* estimate based on data from the Municipal Association’s compensation survey.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sunshine Week question: adding agenda items

In 2015, the General Assembly clarified how a public body can amend an agenda for regular, special, called or rescheduled meetings after the meeting has already begun. The new law, Act 70, addressed the posting of meeting notices, stating that meeting agendas must be posted on the public body's website if it has a website. 

The law pertains to all public bodies subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The Municipal Association and the S.C. Press Association developed this flowchart to illustrate the process. Additional information about this issue is available in the Handbook for Municipal Officials.​

PDF of the flowchart
Get more tips on FOIA compliance in the Sunshine Week issue of Uptown.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Let the sun shine in

Sunshine Week is March 12 – 18 focusing on the importance of transparency  and open government. The March Uptown includes five articles focusing on open government best practices.
Show your city’s commitment to open government during Sunshine Week by sharing these articles and this press release with your local newspapers, posting them on your city website and social media sites, and distributing them to councilmembers and city staff.

Also download this sample Sunshine Week resolution your council can pass to reinforce its commitment to transparency.

Read more about Sunshine Week in the March 2016 Uptown to get additional resources on FOIA training for local officials, download the S.C. Press Association’s FOIA handbook and learn more about court cases.

Use #SunshineWeek and tag @muniassnsc with any Sunshine Week social media posts.