Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Berkeley County Council took a mulligan Monday night.
Council decided it was in the best interest of everyone to take a few days and let cooler heads prevail in regard to the stalled appointment of Catherine Windham to the position of clerk of council.
At issue is to whom the clerk of council office reports.
Supervisor Dan Davis believes since the clerk is a county employee, and that the office reports to him. Council, specifically Vice Chairman Dennis Fish, believes the clerk’s office falls under county council’s supervision and the clerk’s appointment is his responsibility.
Windham has served as interim clerk of council since July 2011.
“All we’re doing is trying to make this official for her,” Fish said. “The vice chairman has always been responsible for the clerk’s appointment and duties. The supervisor wanting to change this now is a move to take control of council, nothing more.”
After Davis tabled the issue at council’s last regular meeting, councilman Tim Callanan electronically called for a special meeting for Monday night to address the issue. Callanan called for the meeting via email on April 5, with a majority vote of council members.
But Dan Davis cancelled the special session at 4:15 p.m. on Monday afternoon in an email to Callanan and the rest of council.
Callanan countered with this message in an email: “The meeting scheduled and noticed for this evening will take place as scheduled. A chairman does not have the authority to cancel a meeting to be called by a majority of council members.”
In the end, though, the special meeting was delayed.
In an executive session called during Callanan’s finance committee meeting to discuss an amendment to an ordinance that would allow council to vote to seek an outside legal opinion when necessary, Windham was called in and her situation was addressed and, reportedly, heatedly debated.
When council returned, Callanan issued a statement saying the council meeting would be postponed to later this week.
“The council meeting we had planned for today, we decided to delay for the greater good,” he said. “What I think is best for the county is that we sit down and try to let cooler heads prevail on this and rather than (have a) blowout in an argument over procedure and whether a meeting was probably called or not.”
Callanan said that he, the supervisor, county attorney Nicole Ewing and Daniel Island attorney Josh Whitley would meet on Tuesday to try resolve the dispute, but taking the issue before a judge is still not out of the question.
“It may still come to that, ” Callanan said. “But we are going to try and give this one shot and see if there is common ground. Right now there doesn’t seem to be any.”
Davis said he agreed with the decision that he and council members were “agreeing to negotiate.”
“If we can meet and work out everything rather than argue about it at council, that’s the way to go,” he said.
Davis said in an email circulated on Friday afternoon, April 5, “Because of the disagreement in opinions and the need to resolve this matter, I suggest that the County seek a declaratory action to determine the current state of the law. Until this matter is resolved by a judge, I recommend we keep things as they currently are.”
“Maybe we can work out the differences in a quieter setting, and if we do we’ll reschedule the meeting for Thursday or Friday of this week,” Callanan said.