Cayce City Council voted Tuesday to proceed with plans to curtail expense reimbursements for its members but shot down a plan to restrain what they may say publicly about city business.
In a packed meeting that underscored residents' frustration with a months-long political battle on council, its members voted 3-2 to refine a proposal by Councilman Steve Isom to spell out procedures for paying the travel, phone and other expenses of its members.
Isom's proposals to restrain reimbursements and muzzle public statements are aimed at Mayor Elise Partin, whom he has criticized for having a Blackberry and home computer at taxpayer expense. He also contends she is committing the city to actions council has not approved.
Of the 15 residents who spoke Tuesday, most rejected both of Isom's plans.
"I am extremely frustrated and disappointed that the ordinances ... are being presented to you as legitimate," Christina Hulslander said.
"How in the world have we come to this?" asked Sally Hurt, wife of a former mayor.
Cayce activist Chris Kueny dismissed the expenses proposal as political payback "cloaked in fiscal responsibility. They're mad because their man didn't win."
Others reminded council the mayor represents the entire town, while council members were elected to represent only their districts.
John Ivey, an apparent supporter of Isom's proposal, said residents should "demand fiscal accountability" and that some member of council needed to be "reigned in."
Joyce Coleman said the in-fighting is impeding city progress. "Cayce is on its way, if you'll let it be. Let's get beyond the bickering."
For years, Cayce has left expense reimbursement decisions to city manager Johnny Sharpe without providing rules. Sharpe, who runs the city's day-to-day operations, lacks the legal authority to reject a specific expense unless it is fraud or otherwise illegal, city attorney Danny Crowe told council.
"Currently, there are no guidelines," Crowe said, "so the city manager has no basis in terms of what to accept and what to reject."
A review last week of city expense records by The State newspaper showed Partin has received about half the $4,000 her predecessor received during comparable time in office.
Councilman Rick Myers said Partin has been misrepresenting to other local governments that a controversial development and marketing plan, called a "charette," is a done deal.
Partin challenged that assertion and said West Columbia, Springdale, Lexington County Council and other bodies have voiced their support for that plan, which would focus on the airport corridor but also would seek to improve other parts of the city.
"The city (of Cayce) is the only one who is still considering whether to take care of this city," Partin said.
Councilmen Isom, Myers and Kenneth Jumper voted to hold a workshop to refine the expenses proposal. Partin and Councilman Skip Jenkins voted no.
In a voice vote, Isom appeared to be the only member to vote in favor of his plan to curtail what council members may say publicly about city business without clearing it with a vote of council.
Many in the audience applauded its defeat.