Berkeley councilman calls push to change form of government 'a power grab'

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A Berkeley County council member Friday called a proposal to change the form of government a power grab.

The accusation was made after council's finance committee voted 5-2 in favor of a referendum that would allow voters to decide if they want to keep the current supervisor-council form of government or have an administrator in charge.

"We did this eight years ago and it was soundly defeated. Why are you bringing it now? With the new people coming on council I see it as a power grab," said Councilman Dennis Fish who made the accusation and voted against the referendum.

Six council members want the referendum. One of them is councilman Josh Whitley.

"This is about the next generation. This isn't about a personality today or current situation," Whitley said.

Council member Steve Davis disagrees.

"There hadn't been a discussion between county council members so this is a hidden agenda," Davis said.

Fish believes some councilmen bees want to oust Berkeley County Administrator Bill Peagler.

"In my opinion yes. What they're doing is three members of our council have made three other members totally irrelevant on this council, Fish said.

Peagler read a prepared statement during the meeting.

He said, in part, "Pushing through a referendum by council as significant as this in mess than a month is truly a disservice to the people of Berkeley County."

Whitley disagrees.

"Can we have the most popular elected person who does it or do we have an administrator who has an education and experience to run this complicated of an organization," Whitley said.

County council needs to give two more readings to the ordinance calling for a referendum.

If approved, voters will go to the polls on March 28.

The change will not go into effect until January 2019 when Peagler's term expires.

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