Councilman accusing mayor of backroom deals

Mayor Joe Owens (Source:
Mayor Joe Owens (Source:

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Accusations of secrets, lies and audiotape take center stage in the ongoing clash at West Columbia City Hall.

A councilman goes public with a recording that he said proves the Mayor is trying to pull off backroom deals.

The West Columbia City Council's scrap with the city's mayor shows no sign of being over.

Now a majority of them have voted to hire an attorney to take a closer look at city government procedures.

A majority of members voted last night to hire independent counsel to conduct an audit of the city's procedures.

That is related to what Councilman Tem Miles said is the dishonesty of Mayor Joe Owens.

"It is a difference in what I believe is required of me as a man, and as a city leader," Miles said. "I believe in being direct and honest with people and our mayor does not. As far as the differences between me and the mayor and the way that this has played into that, I simply want the citizens of West Columbia to be aware of the way that this man conducts himself and his penchant for honesty."

Miles is accusing the mayor of lying about appointing a special committee to investigate the city's police department.

Owens, who spoke to WIS but declined to appear on camera said he did not name a committee.

That claim is repeated on a web site supporting Owens' drive to change West Columbia's form of government to a strong mayor system.

But Miles said an audio recording of a March 10 meeting attended by Owens, the city's mayor pro tem, administrator and Police Chief Dennis Tyndall, captured Owens outlining his statutory authority and then naming at least one member.

Miles also said that gathering violated public disclosure rules.

"I think there was absolutely a violation of FOIA... an aspect to it," Miles said.

Miles said Columbia attorney Robert Bolchoz will conduct the procedural audit.

Mayor Owens said the council is spending taxpayer money for what he called "no good reason."

Owens also said what's really happening here is the council trying to prevent voters from doing what he wants changing to a strong mayor system and giving him more authority.

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