Letter: Sometimes Feedback Backfires

At the most recent regular meeting on June 10th, I received feedback after speaking about the draft budget for FY2024-25.  Based on financial information on the county website, we were $4 million underspent to the current budget through May, and I suggested that several million dollars might be available to put into reserve and that we commit to use that reserve next year for additional funding for emergency services and the animal shelter.  I further suggested that council can have meetings with the heads of the Fire, EMS, Animal Control departments and Sheriff’s office to have them identify their priorities and funding needed. It was to this point that I received feedback.

Chairman Pauley stated, “Council members are not allowed to meet with employees to go over their budget” and “that would be a conflict of interest for council members to do that.”  So, I did some research.

The South Carolina Association of Counties Handbook for County Government states, “Council members should not direct staff members who report to the (administrator) in the performance of their jobs”.  It also states that “As a general rule, except for the purposes of inquiries/investigations and council organizational policies it establishes, the county council does not give orders or instructions to county officers or employees.”  I was not suggesting that council give orders to the department heads, I was simply suggesting that council inquire from those folks as to what they needed financially.

As confirmed by an attorney with the Association of Counties, council has the right as a group, not as individual members, to meet with the administrator and department heads.  This would allow council to get a deeper understanding of the operations and costs associated with the department.  Chairman Pauley was correct about individual members meeting with staff, but did not acknowledge that council as a whole could do that.

Chairman Pauley should understand the difference since in 2018, a lawsuit was filed against him and the county for his alleged interference in a director’s employment and being involved with the director’s termination.  The suit stated that the administrator at that time specifically informed Mr. Pauley that he should not be getting involved in the day-to-day operations, and that the administrator did not understand why Mr. Pauley continued to do so despite being instructed not to.

I agree that council members and council giving orders to staff is unacceptable.  I respect the administrator role and chain of command and would work with him or her in discussions with staff.  That’s one sure way to learn more about the operations and costs of our government. 

So why doesn’t our council do that?

Don Goldbach

Lake Wateree

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