Council member to answer questions about council meeting fireworks

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A West Columbia City Council member plans to answer questions regarding what was said during a contentious council meeting Monday night. Tem Miles has a news conference planned for Tuesday afternoon, at which he will release a statement.

Calling it the "worst abuse of raw power" in his time in local government, West Columbia Mayor Joe Owens felt the wrath of several city council members in a vote to no longer allow him to be the presiding officer at meetings.

Those council members say they are unhappy with the way things are being run.

Owens isn't one to mince words.

"I'm not a rollover, yes man," said Owens to the packed council chambers. "Doesn't work that way with me. If I disagree with them, I tell them."

Obviously, Owens completely disagrees with the council proposal.

"I do all the work," said Owens. "All they do is meet and vote against me."

Most of Monday night's meeting was made up of the Owens and council member Tem Miles arguing back and forth.

"I don't think there is any better illustration of the need for changes than the conduct of this meeting tonight. The mayor was the presiding officer and he was derelict in his duties here," said Miles.

Miles accused the mayor of swearing at council members in executive session.

"I regret it happened. I regret what happened today. I made apologies for the name I called a council member in executive session. I didn't call him a name. I told him to take some action," said Owens.

Miles also believes Mayor Owens has violated Freedom of Information Act laws.

"If Freedom of Information means anything, it means decision makers will have notice of a meeting and the public will have notice," said Miles.

Owens says he has done nothing wrong and hasn't broken any laws. He believes it's illegal for council to vote to "strip him of his duties."

"One day you're the best mayor in the world, and the next day you're Attila the Hun," said Owens.

Residents who were at the meeting told council members they were embarrassed by the actions of council. The mayor says that falls on other members, not him.

"I didn't see anybody uncomfortable with me, did you? Did you see the riles of applause I got," said Owens.

The first reading of the proposal passed. If it goes through, Mayor Pro-Tem Casey Hallman will run the meetings. She voted against the change.

Owens says he will talk with his attorney Tuesday and then he plans on talking with the attorney general.

Miles will address the media at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

A second reading of the proposal has not been scheduled yet.

Also Monday, council members approved renewing the police chief's contract. Only Mayor Owens and Mayor Pro-Tem Casey Hallman voted against the renewal. Miles says the meeting Mayor Owens didn't tell people about was a meeting investigating the police department.

Mayor Owens would not talk about the police chief discussion and would not say if he thinks the chief is doing a good job.

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