W. Columbia mayor says he will fight council’s efforts to strip his power

tflach@thestate.comMarch 18, 2014 

— A power struggle has erupted in West Columbia as some City Council members seek to strip Mayor Joe Owens of his control over their agenda.

A dispute that began with disagreement over police leadership is now a full-fledged conflict over Owens’ leadership, which some city leaders said is too gruff at times.

The mayor pledged to resist any effort to curtail his ability to preside at town meetings and oversee City Hall’s daily operation.

“I’m going to fight that any way possible,” he said Tuesday.

Owens said he is in the political crosshairs for:

• Objecting to keeping longtime Police Chief Dennis Tyndall on board for another three years. Owens said he favored a one-year extension while weighing if other subordinates are ready to step up and take over as chief.

• Passing over some veteran council members to help make Councilwoman Casey Hallman mayor pro tem, the council’s second-in-command. If the move under way succeeds, they will try to oust her from that post, Owens predicted.

• Declining to give council members appointments to positions that increase their perquisites.

His comments came after a divided council gave initial approval late Monday to restrictions on his powers. Most of the limits were adopted 5-4, with Owens and Hallman among those opposed.

Councilman Tem Miles – elected in November – is spearheading the push for those limits. Owens supported another candidate in the match that Miles won.

Miles wasn’t immediately available for comment but promised a statement later Tuesday.

West Columba is the third Lexington County community where council members are sniping at mayors. Other conflicts are under way in Batesburg-Leesville and Chapin.

Ready more in tomorrow’s edition of The State newspaper.

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