Chapin to still meet despite legal controversy - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Chapin to still meet despite legal controversy

Posted: Updated:

A special called meeting by three Chapin Town Council members is causing controversy and more court paperwork.

On Monday, council members Vivian "Bibi" Atkins, Kay Hollis and Robert Frick scheduled a special meeting for Thursday to amend a town ordinance that is currently interpreted to allow the mayor veto power over all agenda items. The three council members' attorney stated that the current town ordinance violates state law. The Thursday meeting agenda also calls for council to appoint a town attorney since the former town attorney resigned from the job in January.

The conflict between the town ordinance and state law came to light after Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr. dismissed a lawsuit last month that was filed by the same three council members against Mayor Skip Wilson and Councilman Greg White. Cooper cited a town ordinance that allows Wilson to have final say over agenda items.

On Tuesday, Mayor Skip Wilson's attorney Todd Carroll filed a motion to enforce the judge's order. The motion quotes town ordinance 2.206, which is the same one council wants to amend Thursday. It states the mayor must sign off on meeting agendas prior to its distribution to council. Carroll claims the plaintiffs are "disregarding" the court's March 18 order to dismiss and acknowledge that the order gives the mayor authority over agenda items.

Plaintiffs' attorney Spencer "Andy" Syrett said a separate town ordinance gives the majority of council the right to call a special meeting and that it states nothing in that section about whether the mayor has to approve the agenda. However, Carroll argues that even that meeting agenda must be approved by the mayor. Carroll also claims that the decision-making process the plaintiffs took to plan the special meeting is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

"Any communications plaintiffs exchanged – whether in person, telephonic or over email – discussing whether to issue the notice and agenda … would constitute a meeting," Carroll stated in the motion, adding no notice was given by the plaintiffs for a planning meeting.

Carroll requested Cooper hold a hearing prior to Thursday's special town meeting, but because Cooper is in the midst of a criminal trial, he wrote a letter Tuesday to address the motion.

"It would be my opinion that any actions taken by the three members of the town council in contravention of the court's March 18, 2014 order, and possibly in violation of the Freedom of Information Act, could be illegal and of no force and effect," Cooper wrote.

Syrett told WIS on Tuesday that his clients plan to continue with their Thursday special meeting as advertised. Cooper also plans to have a response this week to a motion to reconsider filed by the plaintiffs last week in regards to the judge's order to dismiss in last month's lawsuit.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow