Editor’s Note: This article continues a series of stories on projects by The Nerve’s Citizen Reporters. Accompanying this article is a video produced by Nerve videographer intern Ashley Hinkel.
Laurens County Citizen Reporter Katrina Fay is urging her fellow citizens to assert their authority as “bosses” through performance reviews of public officials, or “subordinates,” with her Citizen Boss Initiative.
“Elected officials won’t do a better job as public employees until we do a better job as citizen bosses,” Fay’s website’s tagline reads.
In a push for “individual sovereign authority,” Fay’s website, named the “Laurens County Citizens Watch,” seeks to improve the state’s political system by fostering government transparency and accountability.
“The political process does not impose personal responsibility and individual accountability on anybody – citizens or bosses,” Fay said in a recent interview with The Nerve. “Nobody is accountable because it uses group power.”
“The Citizen Boss uses individual sovereign authority to hold individual subordinates accountable under the laws we bosses own,” she continued. “Performance reviews are exercises of individual sovereign authority.”
According to the New York-born electrical engineer, the idea for the project developed after she sued the Laurens County Council. After filing a state Freedom of Information Act request, she said she discovered that the council was helping to fund Presbyterian College’s start-up pharmacy school.
“The county council had developed an economic incentive package, without the approval of a legislative body and in unrecorded meetings without notice to the public, to help defray the cost to start up Presbyterian College’s School of Pharmacy,” Fay said.
Court records indicate that the lawsuit was dismissed on Jan. 19. Fay said she was shocked by the “complete arrogance displayed by all the public officials.”
“As a result,” she continued, “I had to seek the root cause in data, processes and information. I started studying the processes of government.”
After extensive research, Fay drafted her Citizen Boss Initiative, which she describes as a process of diminishing corruption in government.
“In order to get subordinates to be better subordinates we have to be better bosses,” she explained. “Bosses and subordinates have a vested interest in a subordinate’s performance. … The process is a way to make individual subordinates personally responsible for their performance.”
Fay’s website includes instructions on how to investigate and review public officials’ performances, as well as reviews she has written herself.
“Some people are creative,” she said. “My gift is in the area of data analysis. Everything in life can be mapped to data and process.”
Fay, a Hickory Tavern resident, said her first full performance review was on John Martin, the treasurer of Hickory Tavern Youth Recreation Association.
“It’s a registered public charity that has been funded by the county for 30 years,” she said. “It’s supposed to be providing recreational activities for kids, and it’s operated solely by Martin. He is charging membership and game fees to use the facility, and they collect the revenue and keep it.”
Fay said when she made an FOIA request for the facility’s bank records, the president and treasurer of HTYRA refused to disclose the documents.
“They said they didn’t need to comply with FOIA,” she recalled, adding that the state’s open-records law is a “mechanism that we citizen bosses have to find out what our subordinates are doing.”
In response, Fay said she contacted investigators with the S.C. Secretary of State’s Office and filed a complaint against the association and its officers.
“The citizen boss uses individual sovereign authority to hold individual subordinates accountable under the laws we bosses own,” Fay said. “If it’s true that we citizens possess individual sovereign authority, then it also must be true that that authority supersedes the subordinates’ authority. And it must also be true that a boss can hold subordinates individually accountable for their failing performance and corrupt conduct.”
Fay said she is encouraging other South Carolina citizens to assume that responsibility.
“I think it’ll be interesting to anyone who wants to root out corruption in their area,” she said.
The Nerve’s Citizen Reporter program seeks to build a collaborative, statewide network of local watchdogs who monitor and report on government.
In an effort to promote government accountability and transparency, the Citizen Reporter program allows grassroots activists like Fay to contribute to The Nerve in a number of ways, including writing traditional news stories, filming public meetings and submitting Freedom of Information Act requests.
Reach Weston at (803) 254-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.