Council Tweaks Bylaws

Councilman Moves to Silence Critics of Other Governments

WINNSBORO – County Council approved several technical changes in its bylaws Monday night, with the lone dissenting vote on two of the items coming from District 7’s Billy Smith, who said that, given a little more time, Council could have come up with a better solution.

The two changes that failed to get a unanimous 6-0 vote (outgoing Councilman Mikel Trapp, who was defeated in the new election for District 3, was absent) involved calling to order and chairing the first meeting of the new year following an election, and the election of officers during the first meeting of the new year.

The previous edition of the bylaws left those duties exclusively in the hands of the chairperson, without regard to the end of his or her term. Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said that the chairmanship officially ends each year at midnight on Dec. 31. Calling the first meeting of the year to order, she said, must then fall to the County Administrator. But Smith found the idea unappealing.

“I’m not in favor of any County Administrator or someone who is employed by the Council to run a public meeting of the Council,” Smith said. “I think that it should be a public official who handles that. I would prefer we do this a different way and not be so hasty in doing this, and we certainly have a little bit of time before we have to do it again.”

Smith said he was under the impression that the Council turned those duties over to its senior member when the new Council was seated just two months ago, but Robinson said it was indeed the Administrator who had performed the task.

Smith voted against the change, as well as the change for the organizational election of the chair and vice chair during the first meeting of the year.

“There again, you do not have an officer who is in a position with the Council to run the meeting and it spells out how we go about electing chair and vice chair,” Robinson said. “As soon as that chair and vice chair are elected then that chair takes over and runs the meeting. This is just a formality in order to have someone who can handle that.”

Smith later reiterated his conviction that only public officials should run public meetings, adding that he thought “there are ways and mechanism by which we could ensure that could be made possible.”

“Would you care to explain what they are?” Councilman Kamau Marcharia asked. “If there’s another way, what are those ways?”

Smith said the proposed bylaws changes had only been in his hands since Friday, which he said was not enough time to explore alternatives. But, he said, he had been told it was done differently elsewhere.

“In other places they do it whereby the old Council would do that first meeting where the new ones would get inaugurated and maybe the senior member that’s left over would preside over the meeting in which the new chairman and vice chairman is elected,” Smith said. “I think we should have taken a little bit more time on that and looked at some other possibilities.”

“I would be interested in learning more about that as you research that,” Marcharia said.

Smith voted with the majority in accepting a policy of signing an official conflict of interest statement before Council members recused themselves from County business in which they may have a conflict, as well as on adopting the formal names of Council’s two new committees (Public Affairs and Policy; and Public Services and Development).

As Council amended their bylaws to add the I-77 Alliance to the list of intergovernmental boards and commissions to which they appoint delegates (the list includes the Central Midlands Council of Governments and the Central S.C. Alliance), Robinson asked Council to further amend the item to allow the chairperson to appoint the public sector delegates. As she placed the motion on the floor herself, Smith went a step further and amended her motion to strike “appoint” and replace it with “serve as.”

Council agreed, 6-0. Private sector delegates will still be appointed by the chairperson.

Items for Committee

Marcharia asked Council to consider closing the floor to public comment that strayed from the County’s turf, or that deviated into unsubstantiated and personal verbal attacks against elected officials serving on other public bodies.

“We have had individuals come before Council, getting exposed to the newspaper and the TV, attacking other elected officials and implying that they are criminals and crooks and that they have stolen money, and this is all not within our purview,” Marcharia said. “If they have an issue with them and we have no jurisdiction over these bodies, I think they should take it to their boards and people who have the right to make a decision about what their complaints are. But to come here and degrade other elected officials and make accusations that are never substantiated and make all kinds of legal accusations, that’s something we should not tolerate.”

Marcharia later told The Voice that he was thinking specifically of the recent request made to Council by Gregrey Ginyard, Mayor of Jenkinsville, for $50,000 in matching grant funds for the completion of a sidewalk in the Western Fairfield town. Marcharia noted that public opposition to Ginyard’s request was accompanied by verbal attacks against Ginyard in his role as president of the Jenkinsville Water Company, with those attacks insinuating that Ginyard had mishandled or misappropriated water company funds.

“I don’t think we should allow people to come in here and degrade people, particularly when they can’t validate what they’re saying,” Marcharia said, who then put his request into a motion.

Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) seconded the motion, but persuaded Marcharia to reconsider until it could go through committee.

Council also sent to committee a proposed noise ordinance for consideration.