Chapin clerk defies mayor’s demand to stop session

tflach@thestate.comApril 16, 2014 

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— Chapin town clerk Adrienne Thompson defied a demand Wednesday from new Mayor Skip Wilson that she stop aiding three Town Council members’ attempts to reduce his control over their decisions.

“I am growing weary of your threats to punish me for doing my job and trying to get me to preform(sic) duties that are against our Town Code and the rules of Government which you continue to manipulate to your private interpretation,” Thompson told Wilson in an email.

“If you indeed are concerned about the ‘good of the Town,’ you will follow the rules and allow The Town Council and me to do our jobs without intimidation,” she continued.

Thompson faces possible suspension from her post, although it is unclear if Wilson can do that since she was appointed by the five-member council.

The standoff is the latest episode in a power struggle that has erupted in the northern Lexington County town of 1,500 since Wilson was sworn in as mayor Jan. 7.

The three members called a meeting for Thursday to consider final approval for measures curtailing the mayor’s power over council agendas. Wilson ordered Thompson to rescind the public notice of the meeting.

“Failure to follow this directive immediately will be deemed as insubordination and will subject you to possible suspension as an employee of the Town of Chapin,” Wilson said in an email to Thompson that was sent to other officials late Tuesday.

Wilson’s effort to prevent the meeting is his latest attempt to thwart the move to limit his say. In calling the meeting, the three council members ignored his claim that they are violating a March 19 court ruling upholding his earlier refusal to consider some agenda items the council members wanted considered.

Thompson says she is caught in conflict among town leaders.

Giving notice of meetings is part of her job, and the council members who want the meeting called it properly, she said.

Council members Bibi Atkins, Robbie Frick and Kay Hollis are moving to adopt a change that would allow the three – a majority of the five-member council – to consider proposals over Wilson’s objection.

The court ruling said Wilson’s refusal can be overturned by a council majority.

Wilson thinks the ruling says something different.

“Skip is kind of interpreting it in his own way,” Atkins said. “We’re not backing down.”

Chapin is one of three Lexington County communities with recent conflict among its leaders.

West Columbia Mayor Joe Owens was stripped by City Council of his role presiding over council meetings, a decision he says he will challenge legally.

Most Batesburg-Leesville officials recently signed a pledge for better behavior after one councilman was ejected from a meeting March 10.

The email exchange

Wilson’s email

“I am in receipt of the proposed agenda (see attached) for the called special meeting scheduled on April 17, 2014 at 7 pm. I am directing you to remove all items from the agenda on the grounds that this agenda, like the agenda for the April 10th meeting, has been prepared in violation of Town Ordinance 2.206(b) and Judge Cooper’s March 18, 2014 ruling. Failure to follow this directive immediately will be deemed as insubordination and will subject you to possible suspension as an employee of the Town of Chapin. Your immediate reply to the directive is required.”

Thompson’s reply

“Please refer to the Town code section 2.202 which states a special meeting can be called by a majority of the members of Council, which this meeting was. Also refer to section 2.203 which states notice of all changed meetings and special meetings shall be given to all available members and the news media by the Clerk/Treasurer. I am growing weary of your threats to punish me for doing my job and trying to get me to preform(sic) duties that are against our Town Code and the rules of Government which you continue to manipulate to your private interpretation. If you indeed are concerned about the ‘good of the Town’ you will follow the rules and allow The Town Council and me to do our jobs without intimidation.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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