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Wiley: Proposed ordinances look to strip powers of Summerville Mayor

Mayor-elect, Wiley Johnson, on election night Mayor-elect, Wiley Johnson, on election night
SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) -

Wednesday night the Summerville Town Council will introduce ordinances to change sections within the Code of Laws.

The two ordinances look to change some of the roles as Mayor and the Town Administrator.

On Mayor-elect Wiley Johnson's website he wrote in part, "This is not the office I was elected to serve by the people of Summerville. They did not elect me to serve as Councilman Johnson. These are powers that Berlin Myers used for decades to run the town in a smooth and coherent manner." 

This will be the first reading for the ordinances. Both were added to the agenda this week.

The new proposed Chapter 2, Article II of the Code of Laws of the Town of Summerville entitled “Mayor” and “Council meetings” has several strikes and additions from the current ordinance.

In the ordinances below, it appears the italicized words have been added to the Code of Laws, while the words with a line through them, appear stricken.

Excerpts from the article including the following:

In Section 2-62 (Direction of executive officers) it reads, “The mayor shall not have power authority to give such direction to the town administrator, or in  the absence of the administrator, to any of the department heads of the town as authorized by state law or town ordinances, or as delegated by the town council. unless such authority is given by a majority vote of town council.

Section 2-69 discusses the compensation for the mayor and town council members.

“(a) Mayor: The annual compensation for the Mayor shall be $15,000 effective as of the first Wednesday, of January 2018; and

(1)The salary of the current mayor is increased to $45,000.00 effective as of the first Wednesday of January 2014; and

(2)The increase in the current mayor’s salary to $45,000.00 shall revert to $15,000.00 as of December 31, 2015, unless addressed by town council after the seating of the three members elected in the November 2013 election.

(b) Council: The annual compensation of town council members shall be $7,500.00

(c) Compensation of the mayor and town council shall be paid biweekly."

Johnson, said he’s willing to take a cut in his pay as Mayor, and give more to the Town Administrator.

On Monday, at a Finance Committee meeting, Mayor Bill Collins announced he will be stepping down as acting administrator of the Town of Summerville effective at midnight on Wednesday.

When Mayor Collins was elected in 2011, he persuaded council to let him be the town administrator instead of hiring one. One reason was to save money.

He’s served that position since then. Lisa Wallace will be the interim administrator until the position can be permanently filled.

Johnson has said, several times, that Summerville needs a town administrator.

When council and new leadership takes position in January, they will have the option to appoint Wallace permanently or hire a new administrator.

The new proposed Chapter 2, Article IV of the Code of Laws of the Town of Summerville entitled “Town Administrator” also has a few strikes and additions from the current ordinance.

An excerpt reads as follows:

Section 2-215 (Authority) reads, “Except for purposes of inquiry or routine reporting of problems including constituent requests, the mayor and individual members of the town council shall deal with employees of the town only through the administrator. In order to avoid potential liability, deviation from town policies and practices, and conflicting instruction, no member of the town council, including the mayor, shall give orders, directions or instructions directly to town employees other than the administrator. The mayor shall, where practicable, also issue order and directives through the town administrator; provided, however, that when the mayor deems necessary and in the best interests of the town, the mayor may deal directly with town department heads.

"This is not what the people just voted for…this is hijacking the powers of a democratically elected officer and giving it away to others," Johnson posted to his website. "We expect to see this kind of coup in a banana republic, but not in Summerville.”

In a phone conversation with District 1 Council Member Aaron Brown, he said he would likely vote against these two ordinances.

He said the people voted for Wiley Johnson to become Mayor, and by voting for these ordinances would be taking the right of the people away.

He added that it’s wrong to go behind the residents of Summerville and do something like this.

As for an official decision on his vote, Brown said he would take everything under advisement once the ordinances are presented.

Phone calls and emails to the other five council members and Mayor Collins have not been returned at this time.

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