CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — As Ethan Foard watched his fellow council members raise their hands to vote to kill what he called a “Mickey Mouse” transparency policy, Foard made a decision sitting there to fight back.

Elected to represent the Pageland area of the county, Foard is in the first three months of his first term on Chesterfield County Council.

Chesterfield County Councilman Ethan Foard’s proposal to require county staff to record all committee meetings and post the recordings online was voted down on April 5, 2023. Foard vowed to attend and record every committee meeting until county council agrees to record and post the meeting videos to the county’s YouTube channel. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

He’d asked the council to approve “Video recording of committee meetings,” an action item the new councilman had added to the April 5, 2023 council meeting. Committee meetings are where council members hold in-depth discussions on details involving spending taxpayer dollars and county policy. Committee meetings happen separately from full council meetings and the meeting dates are not published on the county’s website, but agendas are posted within 24 hours of a committee meeting.

The county didn’t start posting its council meeting videos until September 2022. Those meetings are posted to the county’s YouTube channel, but none of the nine videos on the county’s channel contain any committee meetings.

“I think one of the things I have realized being on [the] council that the committee meetings are where the majority of communications, the dialogue that comes to issues that council’s facing and things that we have to take into consideration as it goes to parts of the peoples’ business,” Foard told council during the April 5 meeting. “I think it’s very important, in my opinion, to show our constituents that we’re transparent. We want everybody to know exactly what’s going on because at the end of the day, we were all put here to take care of the peoples’ business on behalf of them. And so I think this would be a great step in that direction,” Foard said in the public meeting.

Foard’s motion was to “audio and video record the committee meetings and have them posted.” The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Mary Anderson, a Cheraw relator, “I’ll second. Not because I – I just want to investigate it a little bit further, not that I’m in agree – I talked to Mr. Foard before this and I just don’t know that I’m seconding saying I’m in favor of it, I just want to discuss it a little bit more.”

The county already audio records the committee meetings, but doesn’t post those recordings to its YouTube channel.

The council chamber is already wired with multiple cameras – permanently mounted in the ceiling – and a state-of-the-art audio recording system, but county administration explained it does not have the staff to record the committee meetings and to have their Information Technology staff post those recordings to the YouTube channel.

“I had mentioned this to Tim (Eubanks, county administrator), I mean, theoretically don’t have a problem with it at all, but what would that do with us personnel wise? Is that going to be problematic?” Anderson asked Eubanks.

“Now, just like this meeting being recorded now, Cody with IT is literally sitting back recording everything and videoing. You’ve got two cameras he’s switching back and forth. I don’t know if y’all’ve seen his display back there, but it’s pretty neat and it’s something that IT would have to continue to operate. And just pointing out, that this year the three months that we’ve had so far, we’ve had 15 committee meetings, so far,” Eubanks told the council.

“If those being recorded or videoed, IT is one person and a part-time person. Their plate is loaded. I’m telling you, I feel bad asking Cody to do anything. I can’t even offer him additional monies for additional jobs because there comes a point that money doesn’t fix it because his plate’s loaded,” Eubanks explained.

Foard argued that since committee meetings often do not have public speakers addressing council from the podium, county staff could simply record the main chambers camera to show the dais and post that recording to the internet.

“Would we have to have additional manpower? Because in a majority of all the committee meetings, there’s no reason to switch back-and-forth because there’s nobody at the podium,” Foard said before Eubanks interjected, “But he’s (IT staff) still got to be at that console back there. And he can tell you better than I can, it’s something that with IT, I’m not an IT person, but we don’t have just any and everybody to sit back there to operate it. Y’all are more than welcome to look at it and see his display back there because it’s really neat,” Eubanks argued.

“And you’re right, if he would have it set on one thing, but he still has to be there and just like when we go into executive session, he’s got to go, get us back on when we come back so we’re in communication with him the whole time. And IT is just one department that is really strapped right now,” the county administrator told Foard.

Chesterfield County Administrator Tim Eubanks told council his Information Technology department head’s “plate is loaded” and he couldn’t get the committee meetings recorded and uploaded to the internet without “additional manpower,” Eubanks said during an April 5, 2023 council meeting. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

Foard said he was surprised at the pushback from county staff over this.

“This is just my personal opinion, when it comes down to transparency, I know everybody says they’re tired of hearing about transparency, but at the end of the day whatever it takes to let the public know exactly what we have going on, I think it’s very, very important. I understand it may be a hindrance on IT or whatever and we may have to look at whatever we have to do, but this is part of our job. We can’t be worried about a camera, we can’t hide behind anything else.”

Councilwoman Anderson would later raise the point Foard argued about the depth of information and debate contained in committee meetings as opposed to a council meeting, “Just out of transparency because I have had a couple of people ask,” Anderson said during the April 5 council meeting.

“When we’re doing section 10 of our agenda and you see, like, title only or first reading, just so the public knows in case anybody watches the video, we have to have three readings. So, a lot of times it might look like we’re passing through pretty quickly, but it is because some of that work has been done in committees and we’re getting to the end. But, we have to have the readings prior to. So don’t feel like we’re making rush decisions or voting on a budget flippantly, we have these titles only and we’re getting there because we have to have three readings. I just thought that was important for our public to understand,” Anderson said from her council seat during the April 5 meeting.

Foard said he was forced to change his original plan after he says he recognized he wasn’t going to convince the council nor county staff to make committee meetings digitally accessible to the public.

Chesterfield County Councilwoman Mary Anderson voted in favor of video recording, but qualified her vote saying she not agreeing with Councilman Ethan Foard’s motion but that her vote was to “investigate it a little bit further,” she said during an April 5, 2023 council meeting. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

Foard amended his motion to have county staff post the audio-only recordings of the committee meetings. His motion failed 4-3 with council members Douglas Curtis, Bruce Rivers, Hattie Burns, and Gerald Miller voting no.

Council Chairman Rhett Butler did not vote, according to the video recording of the April 5 council meeting.

Foard, Anderson, and Councilman Todd Smallwood voted to publish the recordings, but the three were outnumbered and the motion failed. Rivers tried to change his vote, but the chairman moved on, the video shows.

“I went ahead and, on the fly, gave a compromise because we’re already doing the audio record, not the video. So I said, you know, hey, ‘I make a motion that we just post the audio recording of what we’re talking about. We already use it for the minutes, the clerk uses it for the minutes already. So, let’s post that,’ and that was actually what got voted down,” Foard explained in an interview in April with Queen City News Chief Investigative Reporter Jody Barr.

“So that shows that the folks that voted against this had no intention of making a compromise or doing right by the people of this county, and they wanted to prove a point that it was going to be their way. And that’s okay. So that’s the reason why I’m here talking to you now, because the people need to get involved, and they need to ask the people that voted against this. What were you thinking? Do you think that that was on the best interest of yourself? Or the constituents and the taxpayers?” Foard told QCN.


On April 17, Chesterfield County Councilman Ethan Foard stepped out of a white pickup truck in the county administration parking lot, armed with a brand new GoPro camera and a tripod.

“I’m going to have to do it every committee meeting, I guess. I think it’s very important to try to get the community to know what’s going on. They (county council) chose not to do so, so I’m going to have to do it myself,” Foard said as he walked into the front door of council chambers for a Finance Committee meeting.

A meeting was set for 10 a.m. on a Monday.

Chesterfield County Councilman Ethan Foard set up his camera for the first time during this April 17, 2023 committee meeting. Foard is not a member of the committee, but said because he made the public a promise to record the committee meetings he’ll attend every one until council agrees to record them. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

Foard clipped his new camera into his tripod and set his recording spot up on the edge of the dais in front of his council seat. He recorded the entire committee meeting, which contained a discussion over using taxpayer dollars to commission a hand-painted portrait of a retired Chesterfield County judge that will hang in the courthouse next door.

The last courtroom portrait the county purchased cost taxpayers around $15,000, according to Foard.

Foard did the same thing when the county’s Ambulance, Fire and Rescue Committee met at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday where the council discussed major failures in radio communications involving the sheriff’s office and where council members negotiated a new Emergency Medical Services contract with three separate firms.

That spending is expected to run upward of $2 million.

Chesterfield County Councilman Ethan Foard uploaded this April 26, 2023 committee meeting to his own YouTube channel after council voted down his request to have all committee meetings video recorded and posted on the county’s official YouTube channel.

During the April 5 meeting, Foard told the council and the public he’d video record every committee meeting and post the videos for the public to see. Foard created a YouTube channel where he currently has the April 26 meeting video posted.

“The only way I can take this is we don’t care about what the constituents feel and say, this is about us and we don’t want to be in front of a camera. We don’t want to be on a hot mic, and be held accountable for what we say and what we do. And we know that these meetings are out of time that most people’s not going to come,” Foard told QCN.

In every agenda published since April 5, none of them contain a line item to reconsider recording the committee meetings.

“Since council doesn’t want to, I’ll record them my damn self,” the councilman told QCN.