SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) Spartanburg County Clerk of Court Hope Blakeley on Tuesday rolled out results from a new inspection that she says contradicts what the county council was told Monday before the vote that approved a temporary plan to keep courthouse employees in the mold-plagued building while a new judicial center is constructed over the next several years.
On Monday the county’s consultant on the matter, Mike Thomas of Justice Planning Associates, told council members before they voted that other than correcting the stale, bad air inside the courthouse, there was no other mold-related issue. Thomas cited an inspection report from regulatory agency OSHA from late January that stated there were no issues that violated its occupational health standards.
Meanwhile, Blackley partnered with Solicitor Barry Barnett to pool funds from their office budgets to hire a private inspection firm in Atlanta to do a deeper dive of an inspection.
The offices of both Blackley and Barnett are housed at the courthouse, along with several other court judges and judicial departments.
The inspection, conducted by Atlanta-based CGCI, included 7 days of on-site visits using cameras and other equipment to look behind walls and ceilings and the interiors of the air system.
CGCI Director Jerry Bond told reporters his team found mold that’s still present in several areas of the courthouse.
Bond said, “It’s not rocket science. Water entry must be stopped. Clean up the damage and move on.”
In fact, Bond said, his firm found highly elevated levels of dangerous mold in the ceiling of the Clerk’s office and the walls of the Chief Judge’s office.
The inspection also found other areas of the courthouse still have water leaking from pipes, entering through window units, and water pooling in areas of the ceilings.
Bond says, “This would be a location where you would avoid for people with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and the young.”
Bond says there are other areas of concern in the courthouse stating that a water damage in one part of the ceiling of a private men’s restroom is the result of a pipe leaking onto a ceiling tile.
Bond says, “You’ve got an instance where it’s going to make mold.”
Blackley added that a 2016 inspection identified that particular leaking pipe and marked it for remedy.
Bond says it was overlooked.
He stresses that if the mold, water, and air quality issues aren’t fixed then the county could have a bigger problem on its hands, saying, “The elevated conditions will get worse and worse if the water entry is not corrected.”
Blackley sent the inspection to the county administrator’s office Tuesday.
Councilman Bob Walker, one of several council members who voted in favor of staying in the courthouse, tells 7 News he has not had an opportunity to review the results and can’t comment.
Walker reiterated his stance that the county spent $1,000,000 on fixing the mold issues and based off of information presented by the consultant and OSHA it was decided staying in the current building was possible and also saved taxpayers money.
Walker also renewed the county’s commitment to fixing the stagnant issue and any future problems with the courthouse that put any employees at risk.
When asked how this new report yielded different results than the inspection done by OSHA in January, Bond said they are two different types of inspections and that OSHA spent one day at the courthouse while CGCI conducted more thorough testing and sampling over the course of 7 days and tested more square footage of the building.
7News also learned Tuesday that the number of plaintiffs that have filed suit against the county claiming leaders knew there was mold and failed to tell them has grown.
There are now 10 employees at the courthouse who are part of the lawsuit.
The county has already filed a motion to dismiss, claiming it is not a court matter but rather a workman’s comp issue.
The attorney representing the plaintiffs told 7 News on Tuesday that she has responded to the motion stating, “This lawsuit is filed under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.”
Greenville attorney Jan Hinson tells 7News, “The county has known for quite some time about the mold and did not inform my clients while they continued to go to work, get sick, and didn’t know what was making them sick.”
A judge has not a date to rule on the county’s motion.