Hardeeville councilman denies interfering with police work

rlurye@islandpacket.comNovember 29, 2013 

Hardeeville City Councilman Sal Arzillo speaks with residents before the Nov. 21 council meeting.

STAFF PHOTO

A Hardeeville city councilman denies getting involved in a police operation two weeks ago, as the city awaits the results of a state investigation.

The Hardeeville Police Department filed a report Nov. 14 with the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division, accusing Councilman Sal Arzillo of interfering with the inspection of a local gas station earlier that week. SLED has declined to release additional details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Arzillo said he went to the Citgo on Whyte Hardee Boulevard on Nov. 10 after several people, including the store's owner, called him, describing a situation with the police. Four officers were at the convenience store checking on its compliance with liquor laws, according to a report on the incident.

After arriving at the store, Arzillo opened the door and spoke with one of the officers for a minute and a half, he said.

"It was a pretty straightforward conversation. All I wanted to know was what's going on," Arzillo said. "Those guys should have secured the area. When I opened the door, that's when I was interfering."

Video surveillance of the incident should show Arzillo did not interfere with the police, he said. SLED did not respond to a request for footage of the incident Friday.

"There's nothing here," Arzillo said. "Someone's blowing this way out of proportion."

Attempts Friday to reach Hardeeville Police Chief Nagy and Mayor Bronco Bostick were unsuccessful. Nagy and a representative of Citgo have declined to comment.

Following the inspection, police confiscated a video poker machine and charged the store's clerk, a 26-year-old Hardeeville man, and a customer, a 35-year-old Hardeeville woman, with illegal possession of alcohol. The woman was also charged with providing false information to law enforcement.

With SLED's investigation continuing, Hardeeville has no plans to look into the incident independently, city manager Bob Nanni said.

"If the city did have some kind of investigation going on, it could cause problems for SLED," Nanni said. "Any results from a city investigation could be considered biased or not thorough enough."

It's up to local governments to decide whether they want to make their own inquiries, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said

"It would not interfere with our investigation," he wrote in an email.

Councilman Mike Sweeney said he was comfortable with the city taking a backseat to state investigators.

"I think the city police know what happened as far as they are concerned, and whoever was there from the store knew what happened, but that's where it ends," he said. "I think SLED handling it is probably better."

The Hardeeville Police Department report does not detail any exchange with Arzillo.

The incident was not brought up at the City Council meeting Nov. 21. Sweeney hasn't tried to discuss it privately, either, he said.

"I didn't check into whether (Arzillo) was right, wrong or indifferent," Sweeney said. "I'm interested to find out, but I'm not going to go and involve myself in the affairs of SLED."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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