Chapin mayor wants council members held in contempt of court - - Columbia, South Carolina

Chapin mayor wants council members held in contempt of court


No decision was made today after Chapin's mayor and a councilman filed a motion to hold majority of the town's council in contempt of court.

Last week, Mayor Skip Wilson and Councilman Gregg White's attorney Todd Carroll filed a motion after Wilson said council members Vivian Atkins, Kay Hollis and Robert Frick held special meetings illegally. In March, Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr. dismissed a lawsuit filed by the council's majority, stating that Chapin had a strong mayor government structure and the mayor had authority to add or remove items from the agenda as he wished.

This month, Atkins, Hollis and Frick called two special meetings, which their attorney Spencer "Andy" Syrett said was legal to do based on a town ordinance. The special meetings were held in order to amend the ordinance stating the mayor had complete control over council meeting agendas and handle other town business, such as appointing an interim town attorney. Wilson and White did not attend these special meetings because they said they went against the judge's ruling in March.

"Mayor Wilson is not keeping off the agenda the legitimate business of the town," Carroll said. "He's trying to keep a mutiny and a coup off the agenda. That's what this is about."

Syrett disagreed and said the mayor only puts what he wants on the council agendas.

"In contrast to what's being asserted, town business is not being transacted," Syrett said. "They are having regular meetings, and there are things on the agenda, but only the things that the mayor wants to be put on those agendas."

The motion for civil contempt not only requested the judge to hold the plaintiffs in contempt, but also asks for all actions at the special council meetings to be invalid and to pay the defendants' attorney fees.

Syrett argued that the motion filed deals with a separate issue and should lead to a different lawsuit.

"They couldn't be in violation of an order because you didn't order us not to do something," Syrett said.

Syrett filed an appeal earlier this month asking for Cooper to reconsider his decision to dismiss the civil lawsuit.

"The ordinance has conflicting provisions in it," Cooper said. "My effort has and always will be to resolve this matter. Obviously, some confusion was generated by this lawsuit."

Carroll called the special meetings by the three council members a "pointless exercise." He explained that if they could've changed town ordinances by calling special meetings, they should have taken that action prior to filing the lawsuit in February.

"They didn't want to govern the town by special meetings," Syrett said. "They wanted to do it right the normal way. They don't want to have special meetings, but they had no other choice."

Cooper is taking the motion under advisement and told the attorneys to each prepare proposed orders and have those documents to him no later than 10 days from April 25. The judge will then consider the proposals and make his final decision on the defendants' motion.

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