Power struggle flares anew in West Columbia

tflach@thestate.comMarch 28, 2014 

A power struggle among West Columbia leaders intensified Friday amid new conflict on whether Mayor Joe Owens can be stripped of oversight of City Council sessions.

Some council members promised to press on with their effort to put one of their own in charge despite an opinion from the state Attorney General’s office that said the idea isn’t allowed.

“It is my hope that the West Columbia community will support me and my fellow council members in this important measure,” said Councilman Tem Miles, who is spearheading the push to trim Owens’ power.

The opinion – requested by Owens – clarifies previous ones that suggested the change is permissible in some circumstances that it said do not apply to West Columbia.

To Owens, its conclusion bolsters his contention that the five council members upset with his leadership are “trying to usurp my authority.”

A showdown is coming Tuesday when council members are due to take up final approval of a package of changes curtailing Owens’ power to preside at meetings.

Miles and allies complain that the mayor unfairly refuses to permit consideration of views he doesn’t favor, primarily during legally allowed private council discussions.

The changes, they say, are a realignment assuring other views can be expressed.

But Owens says he is a target of political retribution for decisions that angered council members, some of whose elections he didn’t support.

West Columbia is one of three Lexington County communities where council members are feuding with mayors.

Three Chapin Town Council members lost a legal challenge to decisions of new Mayor Skip Wilson while disagreements are unsettled in Batesburg-Leesville.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483

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