Chapin mayor claims second win in power struggle

tflach@thestate.comMay 7, 2014 

— Chapin Mayor Skip Wilson scored a decisive win Wednesday in a power struggle with other town leaders.

His victory came in a court ruling that invalidated recent moves by Town Council members to reduce his control over their consideration of items he doesn’t favor.

Town procedures give the mayor final say over the agenda for all council sessions, the decision by Circuit Judge Thomas Cooper said.

“If in the eyes of the voters, the mayor does not properly exercise his authority over the agenda, then they will hold him accountable at the ballot box,” the decision said. “But this court is not a proper venue for such a political statement.”

Council members Bibi Atkins, Robbie Frick and Kay Hollis sought to overturn the mayor’s unilateral personnel decisions and what they contend is the mayor’s dictatorial style in preventing them from bringing up matters for discussion and adoption.

Cooper said his decision “does not express an opinion on the wisdom” of giving the mayor total control.

Atkins said Wednesday she is “deflated” by the decision but said it’s too soon to say whether the turmoil will end, given strong differences of opinion.

Wilson again pledged to work for “some common ground” with other town leaders.

The three council members adjourned a meeting late Tuesday and left rather than listen to Wilson explain anew why he is accusing town clerk Adrienne Thompson of financial irregularities.

Both sides are asking the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate allegations that led Wilson to suspend her before council members overrode his move, a restoration that the court ruling may void since it was part of an agenda the mayor didn’t approve..

Many of the things that Wilson views as wrong on Thompson’s part were approved by council members to finish a new municipal facility that opened just before he took office Jan. 7, the three council members have said.

Wilson said he is trying to put in place changes authorized when voters elected him the first new mayor in the Lexington County town of 1,700 residents in 32 years.

Town leaders upset with him say they aren’t against some of his ideas but said he is trying to impose them singlehandedly without council review and approval.

Order by Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr.

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