Perry Shown the Door

John Perry

Dec. 2 Resignation Plot May Have Been Hatched in Illegal Session

BLYTHEWOOD – “This sort of leaves our town in a lurch,” former Town Councilman Ed Garrison said Monday after learning several days earlier that Blythewood’s Town Administrator John Perry had abruptly left the Town’s employ under pressure from the Mayor and Town Council.

“Who’s going to run the Town now? No one was more about town administration than John Perry. He was credentialed, experienced and a great money manager. He had vision and the financial and planning genius to carry it out,” Garrison said. “He’s going to leave a tremendous void in our town.”

Following what several sources have told The Voice was an ongoing employment related conflict between Perry and a Town Hall employee, Council went into executive session on Nov. 25 to discuss employment matters, including the “demotion, discipline or release of an employee.” While there was no prior indication that Perry was to be discussed in the executive session, he was not included in the executive session as he usually is.

Following Council’s return to the public meeting after the closed door session, no public vote was taken, but Council may have committed to a course of action while in executive session by agreeing to propose terms to Perry in regard to his termination of employment. Sources who asked not to be identified told The Voice that Council was awaiting some kind of answer from Perry. Such a commitment on the part of Council would be in conflict with the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (SCFOIA.) Section 30-4-70 of the SCFOIA states, “No vote may be taken in executive session except to (a) adjourn or (b) return to public session. The members of a public body may not commit to a course of action by a polling of members in executive session.”

According to Bill Rogers, Executive Director of the South Carolina Press Association, “A vote can be taken in public on a matter like this without disclosing information about the employee. School boards do this all the time.”

According to Blythewood Town Ordinance Title III: Chapter 32 (01), the Mayor does not have the power to terminate the Town Administrator. Such action requires a vote by a quorum of Town Council and that vote must be taken in public. The statute states, “The Town Council shall appoint persons to the positions of Town Administrator, Town Clerk, Town Attorney and Municipal Judge and, when it deems it necessary for the good of the town, suspend and remove such persons from such positions.”

Neither the Mayor nor any Council member would go on record to say what transpired in the Nov. 25 executive meeting, citing the exception provided under the SCFOIA for executive sessions. In addition to the members of Council, Town Attorney Jim Meggs and two other attorneys were present at the meeting. At least one of those attorneys, who specializes in employment law, is a member of the Callison, Tighe & Robinson Law Firm in Columbia where Meggs is employed.

Asked if, prior to the Nov. 25 meeting, they were privy to plans to terminate Perry, two of the town’s new Council members said they had been instructed by Meggs not to answer questions regarding the matter. Neither the Mayor nor any of the Council members have had any official comment for The Voice regarding Perry’s situation since the Nov. 25 meeting.

While sources told The Voice that Perry had until Monday evening, Dec. 2, to respond to a resignation proposal, the Mayor still had no official comment Tuesday evening as to whether Perry had actually resigned.

Perry was hired by former Mayor Keith Bailey in January 2008. Prior to coming to Blythewood, Perry had served as Planner and or Manager for Port Royal, the City of Beaufort and Beaufort County among others.

Perry had his detractors during his tenure at Town Hall, but many supported him. Most agreed that he ushered a new era into Blythewood. He upgraded the Town’s computer system, converted Town Hall to paperless record keeping. He pushed through the Master Plan that Council is now implementing and brought a number of grant funded projects to the Town such as the $300,000 beautification of the I-77 exit. However, the park, the new restaurant and their associated expenses rankled many.

“John understood funding and how it worked,” Garrison said. “He fleshed out our capital improvements plan to make it compatible with the Town’s budget. We are set to go. Now I think some of us are waiting to see what’s next?’

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