Officials debate how to recoup funds for Trump visit to Pickens

Trump appears at campaign event in Pickens
Trump appears at campaign event in Pickens(FOX Carolina)
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 1:08 PM EDT
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PICKENS, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Pickens County officials are planning to use money from the county’s accommodation tax fund to cover costs from former President Trump’s visit during the city’s Independence Day event.

In a meeting on July 17th, county council members considered a request from the city to help fund overtime pay for police officers and fire officials who worked the event. In a document provided to county council members, the city estimates it spent $10,196.85 in overtime for those first responders. County council members estimated they spent around $30,000. Council Member Alex Saitta introduced a motion to allocate $7,000 from the accommodation fund, or ATAX, to go toward the city’s expenses.

During the meeting, county council members said the City of Pickens did not enter into a contract with the Trump Campaign about who would cover such costs.

All council members agreed that first responders should be paid for their work on the day of Trump’s visit, but there was disagreement on where the money would come from.

Council member C. Claiborne Linvill took issue with using ATAX funds, which collect on revenue from tourists. At the time of the meeting, there was an estimated $75,000 in the ATAX fund.  Linvill said using such funds would set a precedent to other campaigns that the county is willing to spend tax dollars to cover campaign events. Linvill also referenced previous large-scale events at different cities in the counties, which the cities covered.

“We are stuck because Pickens did not get a contract with the campaign,” Linvill said. She also said the city needed to submit a formal application to the county.

Linvill proposed sending an invoice to the Trump campaign for the overtime costs, which some council members agreed with.

However, other council members believed using ATAX funds would be appropriate because the rally brought in visitors from outside of the county. Council Member Henry Wilson said the rally generated revenue from out-of-county visitors.

Saitta said sending an invoice to the Trump campaign would be “embarrassing” and a sign the campaign wasn’t welcome. He also brought up large-scale political events, like national conventions, as an example where local governments fund first responder services.

Vice Chairman Roy Costner agreed that this event was similar to other large-scale events that qualify for ATAX funds. Chairman Chris Bowers supported sending an invoice to the Trump Campaign, but acknowledged that the funds could be used.

“If it brought people in, and it put a burden that we didn’t account for in our budget, ATAX money fits the definition for being able to use it,” Bowers said.

Linvill referenced a memo from the county attorney, which stated previous campaigns covered related expenses.  FOX Carolina has requested a copy of the memo. Linvill also said she contacted city officials about who was funding the event and was directed to Senator Lindsey Graham’s office.

Council members ultimately voted in favor of an amended motion to designate $7,000 of ATAX funds to Pickens city, contingent on the city submitting a formal application. The motion also included roughly $30,000 from the fund for county expenses.

FOX Carolina has reached out to officials with the City of Pickens for more information about whether the city entered into a verbal contract with the Trump campaign over the costs associated with the rally.