County council convenes first meeting under new alignment
Berkeley County Council convened its first meeting under the new committee chair format on Monday night as council members searched the dais for their new seat locations.
The new seating arrangement left some council members more than a little agitated.
“Are not seats supposed to be assigned by seniority?” Caldwell Pinckney said before the start of the meeting.
They were, but not anymore.
As part of the new meeting rules seat assignment is now designated by the vice chairman of council.
Rule 20 “Seating” as presented by councilman Tim Callanan in his 24-page Berkeley County Council Organizational and Parliamentary Procedure Rules, states that “seating for remaining council members shall be determined by the vice-chairman with input from council members.”
The new seating arrangement begins with Fish as the new vice-chairman and Callanan as Finance Committee chairman seated on County Supervisor Dan Davis’ right and left, with the remaining seats filled right to left by Phil Farley, Cathy Davis, Ken Gunn, Fish, the Supervisor, Callanan, then Caldwell Pinckney, Steve Davis and Jack Schurlknight.
With the swearing in of new council member Ken Gunn last week, the power shift became official this week as the 5-4 tiebreaker majority Supervisor Dan Davis enjoyed the past four years is now a 5-4 vote against him on critical council issues.
Council member Steve Davis took exception to the new seating arrangement and moved his assigned seat to replace Cathy Davis’ seat.
Following county council’s Committee on Land Use and Development meeting, Steve Davis abruptly left the meeting.
Cathy Davis was excused from Monday night’s council meeting and not present.
According to Fish there was no intended slight in determining seat arrangement.
“I had no idea Steve was upset about the seating arrangement,” Fish said. “There was nothing intentional done to slight any council member in where they are seated. Sometimes given differing personalities among council members they may request not to be seated next to a specific individual.
“Other than that there wasn’t anything done specifically to set a designed seating arrangement.”
Council member Jack Schurlknight believes some members of council aren’t being upfront about their intentions.
“The thing that concerns me is that they’ve talked about being open and transparent yet they come in and change the rules without letting us read the rules,” Schurlknight said. “A private swearing in ceremony and then these new rules changes that nobody knew about … they didn’t show us any kind of respect at all.”
Schurlknight added that while council did radically change its procedural rules two years ago when committees were dropped to five members, “we did allow them to read our proposed changes beforehand and then we discussed and debated it.”