The population of Gaston is just a bit over 1,000 but it has a lot of problems:
Unopened bills spilled out of drawers and $8,000 in cash sat on the desk of the woman responsible for the day-to-day operations of Gaston government when help arrived in the summer of 2007.
For years, as the town sank deep into debt, Gaston officials and some relatives got jobs, bonuses, cell phones, meals and mileage reimbursements on the public’s dime.
The former police chief, who questioned how tens of thousands of dollars in traffic tickets were handled, found himself locked out of the offices of the town administrator and mayor.
Many problems came to light because of Mike Gantt’s efforts. A businessman, he began to suspect that all was not right in tiny Gaston following events in December 2007 when his son, recovering from brain surgery, was given a ticket for parking in a handicapped parking slot at a convenience store. Mr. Gantt began filing records requests under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act and attending meetings.
Other residents joined his efforts and soon a tipping point was reached. Outside investigators helped figure out that all was not well.
Mr. Gantt: Congratulations. It takes courage to be the first to say that the emperor has no clothes.