Burnett’s resignation letter made public

BLYTHEWOOD – After town attorney Shannon Burnett emailed a letter of resignation to Blythewood Town Administrator Carroll Williamson and Mayor Bryan Franklin on Thursday, Sept. 16, both Williamson and Franklin refused to release the letter to the public or to town council members to whom Burnett was responsible.

While a municipal official in the state said it is not improper for her to submit the resignation to the town administrator, it should have immediately been passed on to council members. The official said the town attorney is employed by council, is the council’s employee and is responsible to council, not the administrator or mayor.

Blythewood Town Ordinance No. 6.312, 9-21-2009, Sec. 32.03 – Lines of Supervision and General Duties – (C)(1) states that “The town attorney shall be directly responsible to the town council.”

While the letter was shrouded in secrecy for almost two weeks by Franklin and Williamson, Burnett handed out copies of the letter to councilmen and the media prior to Monday night’s executive session following council’s regular monthly meeting.

Calling Franklin and Williamson “gentlemen and scholars,” Burnett said “the Town is indeed fortunate to have you both.”

In her resignation letter, Burnett said she is resigning because she believes, “it is best for the Town to have an attorney on staff who has 100 percent of their time dedicated to the needs of the Town. I cannot do that at this point in my career,” Burnett said.

“I want to talk to each of you [Williamson and Franklin], and formalize my thanks for allowing me the opportunity to work with the Town as its attorney,” Burnett wrote in the letter.

Burnett wrote that she enjoyed getting to know “both of you and many councilmen and staff. The time this job needs is not sustainable with my private practice – which isn’t fair to the Town as my clients.”

According to her resignation letter, Burnett’s last day at work will be Sept. 30, 2021. She said she would remain available to help the Town during her transition or ongoing litigation.

Following the executive session, council voted to retain Burnett on an hourly basis until a new attorney coil be hired and brought up to speed on the town’s pending litigation.

Burnett was hired by council in October, 2020 and spent much of her time while there with the Town involved in contract negotiations with MPA Strategies. As the negotiations dragged on for almost two months, and rumors were reportedly spread about Ashley Hunter, owner of MPA Strategies, and a councilman, Hunter filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  request with the Town for Franklin’s emails, texts, and other correspondence in regard to MPA Strategies.

Hunter filed a lawsuit against the Town on June 20, 2021, after Franklin failed to send his responsive documents to Hunter.  On July 9, after the lawsuit was filed, Franklin submitted the documents to Hunter’s attorney, Joseph Dickey, Jr.

The Town ‘s outside legal counsel, David Black of Nexsen Pruet law firm, announced at a special called meeting on July 20, that  a counter suit had been filed against MPA Strategies earlier that day. Also during the meeting, council voted 3-1 to terminate MPA’s contract.

Following the June 20, special called meeting, The Voice learned that Burnett, along with Williamson and Franklin had signed affidavits attesting that the matters stated in that counter suit were, on information and belief, true.

The council was not told that the three had filed the countersuit until after it was filed.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]