Structure Vote Divides Council

WINNSBORO – In a split decision Monday night, County Councilman David Brown’s motion to return to a seven-committee structure of government failed to carry. Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) was absent from Monday’s regular meeting and Brown (District 7) saw his motion cut right down the middle, dying 3-3.

Brown, Carolyn Robinson (District 2) and Dwayne Perry (District 1) voted in favor, while Kamau Marcharia (District 4), Mikel Trapp (District 3) and Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) voted against. Currently, Council operates with three standing committees as well as an ad hoc committee to take up miscellaneous issues.

Prior to the vote, District 7 resident Billy Smith, speaking during the first public comment portion of the meeting, said three committees were not enough and encouraged Council to adopt the seven committee standard and improve upon its structure.

“We can’t give you input if we don’t know what’s going on,” Smith said.

District 2 resident Pat Williams also encouraged Council to adopt a seven-committee system and suggested an improved structure would be selection of committee members by majority vote of full Council, as opposed to appointment by the Chairman.

As Robinson seconded Brown’s motion, Perry said he had served on committees under the old structure and felt they did not work as well as the three Council works with now. Perry asked Interim Administrator Milton Pope, who reestablished the committee system utilizing just three committees, for his opinion.

“The point, as I understood, of reestablishing the committee process was to create a sense of transparency, so that items would be reviewed by a committee prior to that matter coming to County Council,” Pope said. “If that is the case, then I feel very comfortable in saying that the committee process that has been accepted by this Council, the three committees, I think that structure is fine.

“If there’s a desire to create additional committees, then I guess that’s fine, but it’s nothing that the three could not handle,” Pope added.

But when Brown asked Pope for a list of committees and their members, Pope and staff struggled to produce a definitive list. After some awkward hesitation, Pope said that Trapp, Robinson and Perry serve on the Administration & Finance Committee; Ferguson, Perry and Brown on the Economic Development Committee; and Robinson, Ferguson and Perry currently serve on the Ad Hoc Committee that is tasked with shepherding the County Courthouse through its upcoming relocation and renovation. The full list of members of the Development & Policy Committee was never disclosed, although Marcharia and Kinley were later counted among its membership.

Brown then asked how personnel matters were being routed, if not through a personnel committee.

“Not as far as who you hire,” Brown said, “but if the recreation commission or somebody needs a new employee, at one time the way we used to do that, we used to meet and look at the description of the position and it would go through the personnel committee and then it would go through the finance committee to see if we have the money to do it.”

Pope said that under Fairfield County’s Council-Administrator form of government, the administrator had the authority over personnel. The administrator could not create new positions, which Pope said was the purview of Council, but could fill existing positions through the budgeting process. Council, he said, has only two employees – the administrator and the clerk to council.

“I don’t want to hire,” Brown said. “I want to set policy to create and then let you do your job. I’ll go back to my motion: I truly believe our old committee structure was very detailed and covered every item that came up. In some cases it would have to go through more than one committee to let everybody know what’s going on.”

Perry, however, said the old structure was flawed.

“For the first seven years on Council I don’t think our committee structure was effective at all and we rarely if ever met at all about anything,” Perry said. “I think we’ve covered more meaningful information in the Finance Committee just this year alone than I ever covered in any committee meeting in the last seven years I had.”

Robinson said that was because Council, until last summer, had an administrator who did not believe in committees.

“When I first came on Council, we had a fabulous seven-committee (system) and we had an administrator that believed in putting everything into a committee,” Robinson said. “After he left, I’m sorry to say, every year it began to wane as to how much information the administrator fed to you. That’s the reason the committees did not meet for the first seven years you were here. . . . It works, if you put it in place and everybody buys into it and does their homework and works it.”

After the motion failed, Smith, speaking during the second public comment portion, wanted to know why.

“This is really an embarrassment that we can’t do things in a structure that allows for transparency,” Smith said. “It’s obvious that there are things that come to this floor and are voted on without any discussion prior to that, and it seems the citizenry does not know about and we are making an appeal to you that we want to know about things. We are not getting good representation when we don’t know what’s going on. Those of you who voted against this, I seriously want to know why.”

Comments

  1. Billy Smith says

    And with that vote, we will remain in the dark until after Council takes action on matters. As always, we’ll only find out about things when the negative side effects start to hit. This is truly a shame for all the citizens of Fairfield County.

  2. Billy Smith says

    And with that vote, we will remain in the dark until after Council has already acted on matters. As always, we’ll only find out about things when the negative side effects start to hit. This is truly a shame for the citizens of Fairfield County. http://blythewoodonline.com/2014/04/getting-around-the-debt-limit/

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