Fountain Inn, Local, Politics

Fountain Inn council calls for referendum on form of Government

With only five members of council present the City of Fountain Inn Atty. David Holmes presented a second reading and ordinance to change or keep the current form of government. The motion passed 3-2 with Rose Ann Woods, Matthew King and Phil Clemmer voting for the motion and Mayor Sam Lee and John Mahony voting against. Councilman Berry Woods was absent and former Councilman Andrew Stoddard moved out of his district and resigned.

The ordinance voted on and approved reads as follows:
No. 2017-009

ORDINANCE

AN ORDINANCE SETTING A REFERENDUM ON THE QUESTION OF A CHANGE IN THE FORM OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT FROM THE MAYOR-COUNCIL FORM TO THE COUNCIL FORM TO BE ON THE BALLOT FOR NOVEMBER 7, 2017; SETTING THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE CHANGE OF FORM OF GOVERNMENT IF THE REFERENDUM IS PASSED; AND TO MAKE OTHER PROVISIONS RELATED THERETO.

WHEREAS, South Carolina Code Ann. § 5-5-20 authorizes the City Council by ordinance to call for an election to determine or change the form of municipal government;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF FOUNTAIN INN, SOUTH CAROLINA, AS FOLLOWS:

A referendum shall be held on November 7, 2017. The question shall be printed on the prepared ballot in the following form:

“Shall the municipality of the City of Fountain Inn, South Carolina, change its form of government from mayor-council form to the council form?

Yes []

No []

Those in favor of the question shall deposit a ballot with a check or cross mark in the square after the word ‘YES’, and those voting against the question shall deposit a ballot with a check or cross mark in the square after the word ‘NO’.”

Notice. As required by South Carolina Code Ann.§5-5-50, notice of the election relating to a change in form of government called for by this ordinance shall be published at least three weeks in advance in a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Fountain Inn.

Sam Lee takes oath of office, officiated by City Attorney David Holmes

Effective Date of Change. If a majority of the votes cast are in favor of the change, the change shall take effect on the 1st day of July, 2018.

Authorization.  The Mayor, the City Administrator, and the City Clerk, for and on behalf of the City, acting jointly or individually, are fully empowered and authorized to take such further action as may be reasonably necessary to carry into effect the special election and referendum plan authorized by this Ordinance.

Severability.  The provisions of this Ordinance are hereby declared to be severable and if any section, phrase or provision shall for any reason be declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid or unenforceable, such declaration shall not affect the validity of the remainder of the sections, phrases and provisions hereunder.

Effective Date of the Ordinance.  This ordinance shall become effective upon final approval by Council after second reading and signing by the Mayor.

In South Carolina all municipal governments must operate under one of these three forms of government.
Mayor-Council Form, Council Form and Council-Manager Form

According to the ordinance passed by City Council, Fountain Inn residents will choose between the Mayor Council form that they presently have and a Council form of government.

Mayor-Council Form

Municipalities under the mayor-council form have a mayor and no less than four council members. The mayor presides over meetings (S.C. Code 5-9-30(3)), and calls special meetings. He designates a temporary judge, acts as chief administrative officer, and appoints and removes employees subject to personnel rules adopted by council.

Council Form

Municipalities under the council form of government have five, seven or nine members, including a mayor.

The mayor presides over meetings (by tradition), performs ceremonial duties, calls special meetings, designates a temporary judge, performs administrative duties (only if authorized by council), and acts and votes as a member of council. The mayor has no additional statutory authority beyond that of other council members.

Several incidences have occurred in the city with regard to council and mayor functions that may have triggered support for a change in government. Mayor Sam Lee, elected as a strong mayor which is a form of government the City of Fountain Inn operates under, apparently had a disagreement with city the administrator at the time and fired him seemingly without council approval. At an upcoming Council retreat it was noted that the city administrator was not present although no formal word was ever offered to the public as to his employment status. After a 4 ½ hour executive session the council and mayor by all accounts came to terms and reinstated the city administrator. Rumor and innuendo raced through the town but no announcement was offered except the city administrator remained employed. When asked a short while later about the situation Fountain Inn Mayor Sam Lee said “The administrator and I are good.”

Prior to that constitutional confrontation the city suffered the loss of Economic Development Director and Younts Center Director Van Broad who took a position in Mauldin. As a key employee he was instrumental in encouraging businesses to relocate to Fountain Inn as well as directing the Younts Center to greater success.

After Broad left there were several changes in city personnel.

Lee hired Byron Rucker to replace Broad as director of the Younts Center and economic developer. He stayed in that position for less than a year as the city decided to eliminate the position.

Two other employees of the Younts Center left their positions as further restructuring continued. In the meantime, the city administrator resigned to accept a position in Simpsonville and the finance officer left to accept another job.

The city hired two new employees at the Younts Center, brought back Sandra Woods as a part-time city clerk and transferred the city clerk back to her former position as finance officer. According to acting City Administrator Mike Pitman, “We are moving forward in a direction that will ensure the citizens are getting the most service for their money.”

Then in a surprise move the mayor canceled the upcoming FIRE performances of “Godspell” at the Younts Center citing poor ticket sales and more important needs in the city. When reached by phone just after performance cancellation, Rose Ann Woods a Fountain Inn City Councilwoman stated that she had no idea and was not aware of the mayor’s actions. Some performances were then rescheduled.

After several council meetings that drew supporters of the Arts, city council decided to transfer ownership of the Fountain Inn High School building and equipment to The Cultural Arts Foundation, also known as CAFFI. The controlling board has restructured the management at the Younts Center and are preparing for new season.

Longtime Fountain Inn resident Ward Kellett was asked his opinion about the upcoming referendum vote. He said, “I’ve always believed that a strong council weak mayor form of government is preferable for one main reason. All of council could be for something and the mayor can overrule. One person should not have that much power. I would like to see us adopt the strong council form of government.”♦

 

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