This time a year ago, I wasn't familiar with the term "indistrict expense."
Now I've written the words so many times I've lost count.
If you read this paper with any regularity, you are most certainly familiar with the ongoing Greenwood County Council indistrict expense drama. If not, here's an (extremely) abbreviated crash course:
Last year, the Index-Journal discovered, in examining county payroll documents, several County Council members collectively received more than $147,000 in indistrict expense payments from 2008-11. These funds, which were essentially unknown to the public, were in addition to those members' regular Council salaries.
The funds were supposed to be used to cover certain expenses incurred by Council members in the course of fulfilling their duties. No receipts were required.
Stories and editorials were written. People got mad. Freedom of Information Act requests got filed. Some Council members got voted out of office. The South Carolina Ethics Commission is investigating, at Council's request.
That's the Cliffs Notes version, at least up until last week.
I'm not here to opine on the greater indistrict expense saga. But, because of a series of events last week, the whole indistrict expense mess got me thinking about drawers.
Yes, drawers. The little sliding boxes in which you store things.
As you might have read in the paper last week, County Council released on Tuesday a one-page memo, originally produced in May 2008, to the Index-Journal as a supplement to the paper's June 2012 FOIA request regarding the indistrict expense issue. A paper copy of the memo, which provided some insight into when and by whom the indistrict practice was authorized, was apparently found by a county employee in the bottom of a drawer.
It was said to have been sitting flat on the bottom of the drawer, beneath some drop files.
Following the unearthing of the nearly 5-year-old memo, county officials quickly moved to take the proper steps to provide a copy to the Index-Journal, as a supplement to the paper's FOIA request from seven months ago.
NOW, I KNOW WHAT you might be thinking.
You might be thinking, "Chris, baby doll, you've got to be kidding me. A quasi-'smoking gun' memo related to one of the hottest local government stories in the last year was found on the bottom of a drawer?"
For those who might have such thoughts, I have two responses:
1. Why do you refer to me as "baby doll" in your thoughts? That's weird.
2. All kinds of things can end up on the bottom of a drawer.
Following last week's county memo revelation, I got to wondering what my newsroom co-workers might have in the bottom of the drawers at their respective desks. The following is an actual drawer-bottom inventory from various I-J staffers.
Associate editor Scott J. Bryan - Bryan's office decor is remarkably sparing (at least in comparison to executive editor Richard Whiting's office, which features a bearskin rug sprinkled with blood diamonds).
So, I figured the contents on the bottom of Bryan's desk drawer would be minimalist. I was right, to a certain degree.
Bryan's drawer-bottom contained a bag of chips, a copy of his Index-Journal profit sharing plan data, a half-eaten bag of "probiotic" fruit and nuts and - I'm not kidding - a copy of Azalea magazine, which purports to cover "Modern Living in the Old South."
Longtime writer/columnist Joe Sitarz - Joe, of course, had a smart comment to make when I walked over to his desk and asked, "Hey Joe, what's in the bottom of your drawers?"
Nevertheless, Sitarz let me inspect the contents of his desk drawer. There, I found a packet of soy sauce, a broken tape recorder, numerous Dum-Dum lollipop wrappers and a Snapple cap. The fun fact on the Snapple cap informed me bamboo makes up 99 percent of a panda bear's diet.
There were no expense account memos in there, but there were a lot of old AAA batteries.
Staff writer Michelle Laxer - Laxer generally means business, so when I checked the contents of the desk drawers she generally uses, I wasn't surprised to find numerous "run of the mill" journalism-related documents: Police reports, affidavits, old newspapers, moonshine recipes, etc.
However, when we checked one of the drawers she doesn't typically use, we found a pair of dirty socks. We also found one of former Index-Journal writer Felicia Kitzmiller's old notebooks. Kitzmiller, who now works for the (Spartanburg) Herald-Journal, included the following diverse shopping list in the notebook: clock, sugar, bolts, stool, trash can, desk chair, milk, tissue, Brita filters, soap and hooks.
Now THAT'S a party.
Sports editor Scott Chancey - When inspecting Chancey's desk drawer, I reasonably expected I would find candy. This is, after all, a man who knows when Nerds are "in season."
At the very least I expected to find an old Tiger Beat magazine with Debbie Gibson on the cover.
Alas there was one - one - item in Chancey's drawer: a mini-Christmas tree. Apparently, it's Christmas all year long at Chancey's desk. I left him some mini-coal and mini-switches in his mini-stocking.
Photographer Matt Walsh - As you might know, newspaper photographers are typically a degenerate lot. They're always sneaking around trying to find "the best angle," they wear fingerless gloves and they make jokes about their "long lenses." It's all very sordid.
I didn't want to see what was on TOP of Walsh's desk, no less what was on the bottom of his drawer. Nevertheless, I forged ahead.
Among Walsh's drawer contents were a Cat in the Hat-style red, white and blue top hat, peanuts, a State Farm fan and a helmet camera. No, I don't know what he does with the helmet camera.
While I didn't find any long, lost political documents in my co-workers' desk drawers, I did find ... a bunch of random stuff.
So, be sure to check the bottom of your drawers. There's no telling what you might find.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.