Chapin council reinstates suspended clerk in mayor’s absence, will ask SLED to investigate

acoyne@thestate.comMay 1, 2014 

— Days after Chapin Mayor Skip Wilson suspended town clerk Adrienne Thompson and accused her of misusing public funds, Chapin Town Council reinstated her, saying Wilson did not have the legal authority to take the action.

Council also voted in Thursday’s special-called meeting to ask SLED to look into the matter, said Councilwoman Bibi Atkins. Atkins said she hopes something comes of a potential SLED investigation, but “not against (Thompson).”

“There are other issues going on,” Atkins said.

The mayor and Greg White, one of his council allies, did not attend the meeting. Both had been notified about the session, Atkins said. Efforts to reach the mayor were unsuccessful Thursday.

After Thompson’s suspension late last week, Town Council reviewed state and local codes and found that the mayor does not have the power to suspend or fire the town clerk – only Town Council has that power.

Thompson supporters, who packed council chambers Thursday, broke into applause when Atkins announced she would be reinstated.

Thompson, who attended Thursday’s meeting, will return to work soon, although she is unsure of when. She has been under a doctor’s care and has been advised to wait until May 7.

“It was hurtful in the first place, I hate to have to go through this for no reason,” Thompson said. “It’s hurtful for the town. I am looking forward to all of this being over so the town can go back to being the wonderful place that we are.”

Still, when Thompson does return, Atkins said, there could be some office tension.

“I think the mayor will not let it go,” she said. “I think he will make her position as difficult as he can.”

Wilson offered few details when making allegations last week against Thompson about financial irregularities, other than to say that unidentified “proper investigative authorities” have been notified.

His claims are rocking the northern Lexington County community of 1,700 residents, where Thompson is regarded as Town Hall’s unofficial grandmother.

The alleged problems were discovered, Wilson said in a statement, when he began reviewing town finances in preparation for taking office as the community’s first new mayor in 32 years.

Wilson’s allegations of financial irregularities follow years of audits that didn’t report such problems, some town leaders said.

Thompson, town clerk for 13 years, had been suspended Friday with pay.

The suspension is the latest turn in a power struggle among Wilson and some town leaders over changes he wants to make at Town Hall. Those changes, he says, were authorized when voters elected him Nov. 5.

But Atkins and fellow council members Kay Hollis and Robbie Frick are challenging his efforts, saying he is trying to impose changes singlehandedly without regard as to whether they are permissible and require council consent.

Thompson defied a demand from Wilson in mid-April to stop publicizing meetings of the council members who are seeking to reduce his influence over town operations through decisions in sessions that he says are improper.

Wilson called Thompson insubordinate then. He later said in a statement the disagreement is “totally unrelated” to her suspension.

Staff writer Tim Flach contributed.

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