CITY BLIPS 


Not-So-Happy Days ·
Deborah Stephenson announced last week she was starting up a new kids/cancer charity, Courageous Kids.. Stephenson, who stepped down last year after 23 years as executive director of Happy Days and Special Times, a local charity benefitting kids and families stricken with cancer. Stephenson was either forced out by members of Happy Days' board or refused to take a reduced position, depending on whom you talk to, after financial mismanagement at the charity was made public. She says Courageous Kids won't compete with the organization she founded, adding that she wishes Happy Days all the best. But, in addition to blaming most of the money confusion on difficulties working with Blackbaud's financial software, Stephenson also now says her removal from the organization's top job was nothing short of a political coup orchestrated by several boardmembers, including chairman Robert Marchant. When asked to comment on her recent claim, Marchant was succinct: "Wow," he says. Marchant denies Stephenson's allegation, saying that five different certified public accountants reviewed the books and found the finances to be "in disarray and that they were basically unauditable." The board, according to Marchant, saw that it had to change the structure to ensure proper financial controls were in place. Marchant added that he's not worried about fighting for the same donation purses with Stephenson, a gifted fund-raiser, saying donations are up 10 percent from the same quarter last year when she was still in charge. Stephenson says she will avoid the mistakes of the past by doing a better job handling any money that does come in to her new charity. —Bill Davis

This Week in Columbia ·
The first week in Columbia was one for settling in, and this week will probably signal the beginning of full-tilt action as the legislature begin sto debate bills and issues in earnest. For those wanting to keep up on the action and get some added insight into the goings-on at the Capitol, SCETV has launched two shows. On Tuesdays, from 11:30 a.m.-noon, This Week in the House, hosted by Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell (R-Chas.), will invite members of the house to discuss the major moves of the week. On Thursdays, Senate President pro tem Glenn McConnell (R-Chas.), will host This Week in the Senate from 9:30 a.m.-10 a.m. If you miss either of the shows, you can always turn to the internet, with both shows being available at www.scchannel.org/statehouse. —BD

Pet Deaths Spark Food Recall, Investigation ·
Nineteen varieties of Diamond Pet Foods have been recalled due to the deaths of at least 76 dogs nationwide. Testing showed high levels of aflatoxin, a naturally occurring toxin that can grow from fungus found on grains. Aflatoxin has been found to cause liver damage in pets. Diamond recalled products from its Gaston plant manufactured from September to November 2005, but the contamination has recently been narrowed to food produced on Oct. 11. Investigations have been launched by both the FDA and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. "If there's a silver lining to this, it's that there's going to be a greater interest in the quality of dog food and what's sold in South Carolina," said local pet store owner Ric Sommons. "That's a good thing." —Anna Claire Hodge

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