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‘We are divided’: Swansea Town Council holds first meeting since Mayor’s suspension

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 9:40 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 11:54 PM EDT
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SWANSEA, S.C. (WIS) - The Swansea Town Council held a turbulent first meeting since its mayor was suspended from office.

This month, Mayor Jerald Sanders was indicted on an embezzlement charge and Governor Henry McMaster suspended him. Sanders has since pled not guilty.

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Mayor pro-tem Woodrow Davis took the reins as acting mayor of a council now reduced to four members.

Davis told WIS earlier this month he is soon retiring for health reasons after more than 30 years on the council, and said he does not plan on taking action in response to Sanders’ suspension.

Thursday afternoon, an even-numbered council was split early in the meeting.

Councilmembers Doris Simmons and Mike Luongo expressed support for the hiring of a town administrator to monitor finances.

Councilwoman Linda Butler and Davis expressed opposition, with Butler arguing the hiring should wait until a new Mayor is elected in November’s general election.

A similar 2/2 split took place during the discussion of a hospitality tax and a motion to formally vote Davis as pro-tem. Luongo expressed a desire to formally vote Davis in, while Butler argued such a vote is not necessary.

The council did vote to extend the fiscal year 2021 budget because the fiscal year 2022 budget has not been completed and approved.

Additionally, it voted to grant all council members the power to sign town checks, increasing access and oversight on finances.

At times during the meeting, council members questioned a lack of communication from town staff and struggled to follow parliamentary procedure while going through the agenda.

Once the meeting was over, attendees took to the podium to express their frustration with the council’s division, job performance, and financial accountability.

“Since I’ve been living in Swansea, Swansea has been horrible when it comes to dealing with the business of the people,” resident Relynn Briggman said.

“Y’all just not doing a good job, because if you’re doing a good job, you’re going to do it right. You’re going to do it timely. I am so sick of it,” resident Catherine McKnight.

Lexington County Council District 1 Councilman Scott Whetstone attended and confronted the council on its conduct. “This is a total damn embarrassment to this county and these people. Get your parliamentary procedures together, get yourselves together, or get out of those chairs and go do something else,” he said.

Simmons called the comments “appropriate.” “I felt like that needed to be said, we’re hearing it from all sides. He’s right, this is an embarrassment to the county, and it doesn’t need to be,” she said.

Luongo agreed but said an olive branch was extended at the meeting. ”We are divided. We are divided. We do need to come together. We do need to start working better together for our residents and the town,” he said.

Butler was not immediately available for comment.

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