MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Mount Pleasant voted Tuesday night to keep its town legal counsel in place.
Town officials had considered ending its contract with the town lawyers. This came after a town council member’s name and title was redacted from a police report.
There were three votes to change the town’s form of legal counsel, and five votes against.
“This law firm has had the contract for a decade with no competitive bids,” Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie said. At the end of the contract they get a lump sum of approx $250K if it’s NOT renewed. Bad deal for our citizens."
Tuesday night’s discussion took place in executive session, which meant it was behind closed doors. If the legal counsel contract had been terminated it would have been effective June 30, 2020.
Mayor Will Haynie, who voted to change the town’s form of legal counsel, called for more transparency in government.
Haynie says back in 2017 there were discussions about going in a new direction. Right now, a private law office, Hinchey, Murray and Pagliarini LCC is representing the town.
The town is paying them about a half a million dollars a year for their services.
Haynie says when he received the police report with the redacted name of the town employee, the town’s attorney advised him not to release it to avoid possible liability.
We’re told that the attorney representing the town employee threatened to sue the town if the report was released.
“I think the Freedom of Information Act and government compliance rank right up there with First Amendment rights and freedom of religion in those type things,” Haynie said. “If anything, the town of the stature and sophistication that Mount Pleasant is reported to have we should be experts on the Freedom of Information Act and we should not be finding out from experts from out of town that what we have done does less than comply with it wholly. That’s something the people of Mount Pleasant are owed an apology for.”
Haynie said he thinks the town should have general counsel representation. That means an attorney would be an employee of the town who could hire or seek counsel from outside attorneys if needed who specialize in a particular legal need.
Haynie says the town of Mount Pleasant is stuck in a decade old model.
“Things work better when you have a general counsel and an assistant that works for you. Like I said earlier that it’s like expecting your primary care physician to remove warts and do brain surgery,” Haynie said. “We need someone who manages our legal process and manages it in a competent way, and then when we need a litigator, we go hire a litigator, when we need somebody to work with imminent domain we have somebody that works with imminent domain.”
The police report referenced said that a town employee went to his daughter’s school after a disturbance between students. It accuses the town employee of being rude, belligerent and threatening to “go through the doors” to protect his daughter.
We reached out to the law firm and the unnamed town employee. They did not respond for a comment.