June 4, 2014

Feuding Chapin Council leaning toward mediation

Chapin Town Council might resort to professional mediators to help members get along.

Chapin Town Council might resort to professional mediators to help members get along.

Three of the five members did not object to controversial Mayor Skip Wilson's suggestion at Tuesday night's meeting.

"This is an opportunity for the council to show the town residents and the businesses we're serious" about working together, Wilson said. "It seems that we can't do this on our own."

Councilwomen Bibi Atkins and Kay Hollis placed conditions on their participation in the as yet unscheduled sessions at Midlands Mediation Center.

"I'm willing to go forward as long as you're willing to follow town ordinances," Atkins told Wilson.

After yet another contentious council meeting, Atkins, Hollis and Councilman Robbie Frick told The State newspaper they are undecided about attending the sessions.

The mediation debate was one of several terse exchanges among Atkins, Hollis and the town's first new mayor in decades.

Former mayor Stan Shealy attended his first council meeting since retiring. Shealy was at Town Hall covering the meeting as a reporter for a local online newspaper.

One of Tuesday's disruptions came as former town attorney David Knight used his monthly report on Chapin utilities to complain he hasn't been paid in five months for his work dealing with utility matters.

Knight said he no longer attend will council meetings or answer any questions about his written reports until he is paid $7,500 he said is due him .

Wilson repeatedly tried to stop Knight from speaking about the legal bill, but the lawyer persisted.

Wilson said later he would not respond to Knight's complaint. The town will have to turn to using on-call lawyers as it has for the town attorney since Knight retired in December, the mayor said.

Wilson and the councilwomen also clashed repeatedly over their attempts to affect items on the agenda and council rules.

Wilson - never raising his voice - blocked each attempt.

Afterward, Atkins said Wilson does not abide by Roberts Rules of Order but rather by "Skippy rules."

The push for mediation comes after four months of infighting.

Wilson won two legal skirmishes affirming his say over what the five-member council considers amid complaints of an imperial style preventing challenges to his decisions.

He also has upset the three council members with suspension of veteran town clerk Adrienne Thompson for what he says are financial irregularities but which they say are decisions in furnishing the new Town Hall that she made with their approval.

Officials at the State Law Enforcement Division are investigating the mayor’s allegations.

Wilson says he is trying to put in place changes authorized when voters elected him Nov. 5 as 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 unilaterally without council review and approval.

Staff writer Tim Flach contributed to this story.

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