Former James Is. mayor under fire for $5,000 membership

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - It only took Mary Clark two weeks since being replaced as James Island's mayor to resurface in the middle of another money-focused controversy.

Council members are investigating a series of $1,000 checks Clark wrote to a non-profit organization led by her daughter, said Council member Leonard Blank. The checks were written, Blank said, when the town didn't have an operating budget for the current year.

Blank said it was a surprise to learn that the town is now a member of the Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce.

According to him, Clark never discussed membership with the full council, but said that before $5,000 in taxpayers' funds were spent the matter should have been discussed.

The mayor is allowed to spend up to $1,000 at a time without council approval, Blank said. He says current mayor Bill Woolsey is looking into the expenditures.

The Sea Island Chamber of Commerce says it is a new and growing organization that received the money as a membership fee. Executive Director Sherry Hering said fees range from $250 to $5,000 depending on the level of membership a member wants.

Hering admits to recruiting the Town of James Island and said it had nothing to do with the former mayor's daughter being another Executive Director of the chamber.

"There are no salaries. There are no payments going on. This is all, at this point, a non-profit we are putting together," she said. "The Town of James Island is a member, just like Heritage Trust. It has nothing to do... They were solicited; they agreed to be a member just like other businesses in the sea islands area."

Clark did not return phone calls on the matter. She has said in other interviews since the loss of her mayoral seat that she would not speak publicly on town issues.

Clark is also currently under scrutiny for payments made to her son. Julian Clark was hired for some web development and mapping work for the town while his mother was in office.

The council will meet Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. to discuss a budget for the current year since the council never came to an agreement during Clark's last term.

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