An overhaul of Lexington County’s rules on what’s permissible in its 123 buildings is in the works, following a fuss over Coroner Margaret Fisher keeping a kitten in her office.
The changes are coming after County Council members agreed the conflict illustrated that current standards are vague in some aspects and can be misinterpreted.
“It needs some reworking,” Council Chairman Johnny Jeffcoat said. “We’re going to make things clear, more understandable.”
Standards in place since 2008 were intended to apply to all county facilities. But those rules deal mainly with rentals to outside groups that include a ban on bringing in pets.
Fisher reads the guidelines as not affecting her office, even though many of the nine council members say the ban does.
The disagreement sparked a review showing “a need for clarifications,” Councilman Jim Kinard said.
It’s uncertain if the new rules will allow Fisher to keep Morticia the kitten to provide comfort to grieving persons coping with deaths her office investigates.
Councilman Todd Cullum wants “some leeway” for therapy animals in addition to an exemption for those at the animal shelter and dogs used by deputies for tasks such as detecting drugs.
But Jeffcoat and Kinard say the pet ban is designed to protect visitors and employees from allergies, bites and scratches.
No one comes in contact with the kitten except upon request, Fisher said.
Some council members are reluctant to set rules they say might interfere with what eight independently elected county officials like Fisher do.
“They need to be free to operate their offices on their own within reason,” Cullum said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483