Tapes heat up Mount Pleasant trial

Robert Miller

Allegations of threats, attempted bribes and influence peddling were aired Tuesday on tapes and in testimony during day two of the defamation trial pitting Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Ken Glasson against Charleston County Planning Commission member Robert E. Miller Jr.

About three hours of taped interviews by Charleston City Paper reporter Stratton Lawrence were played in court. The recordings were the basis of a story Lawrence wrote in 2007, "Bullies and Bribes, Something Stinks in Mount Pleasant."

On the tapes, Glasson said Miller threatened his family, business and political future if he did not vote against Central Mount Pleasant. Glasson said Miller offered to invest $250,000 in his business. Glasson said he prayed about the experience before taking his concerns to the authorities.

Also on the tapes, Miller described Glasson as corrupt, insane and desperate, and he denied threatening Glasson. "That never happened. All I said is I want you guys to vote with the mayor because I support the mayor," Miller said. Former Mayor Harry Hallman opposed Central Mount Pleasant.

The Planning Commission rejected the project but Town Council approved it in May 2007. "Anybody who opposes one of these developments, they are going to get crucified. That's what's going on over here. We've got a plan. We need to follow the rules," Miller said on the recordings.

Robert Faith, a partner in Central Mount Pleasant, testified Tuesday about his reaction to a voice mail Miller left at his office in 2006. In the voice mail, Miller said he had heard rumblings about Central Mount Pleasant and he could be of help to the developers. Faith said he saved the voice mail because of his concerns about the situation.

"I was under the impression that Bob Miller was going to approach us and ask to be involved in the project. I was worried that if we didn't hire Bob Miller then he would attack our project and come out against us.

"By reputation, I understood him to be an opponent against projects that he was not hired to support," Faith said.

Faith said he spoke with Miller about a week after the voice mail. "Bob said, 'I'm very close to the mayor and I'm in and out of the office all the time,' " Faith said.

Central Mount Pleasant developers hired Daniel Dukes for $55,000 to lobby Town Council members to approve the project. "As time went on, we felt there was movement against us. At the time that I talked to Mr. Miller, I didn't think that we needed any political help," Faith said.

Miller's attorney, Mark Mason, noted that Miller never discussed with Faith a proposed contract or dollar amount for his services. Under cross-examination, Faith admitted that his interpretation of the voice mail left by Miller was speculation.

Mason said the mayor needed the services of Miller, a developer with 30 years experience, to provide an executive summary of the project.

Central Mount Pleasant, approved in May 2007, will include hundreds of homes and a large retail and office complex on 110 acres bounded by Rifle Range Road, Hungryneck Boulevard and Venning Road.

Little has been done on Central Mount Pleasant except for part of the extension of Hungryneck Boulevard. Faith said the project would begin in earnest when the economy recovers.

The town Planning Commission voted 7-1 against Central Mount Pleasant. Glasson voted for the project when council approved it in a final vote of 5-2.

Glasson sued Miller for defamation. Miller has filed a countersuit. Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson is presiding over the trial.