Berkeley County Council decides to try to work out clerk issue

The question of who has the authority to hire a clerk for Berkeley County Council will have to wait a few more days to be settled.

Council Vice Chairman Dennis Fish and several council members maintain it’s council’s responsibility to hire a clerk, and that the clerk reports to the vice chairman, but Supervisor Dan Davis said he was recently advised that he is responsible for all county employees, except those hired by other elected officials, such as the sheriff or clerk of court.

Fish was prevented from bringing up the appointment of Catherine Windham, who has been acting clerk since July 2011, at the March 25 council meeting.

Last week, Councilman Tim Callanan called for a special meeting on Monday to discuss the appointment.

But hours before the meeting was to be held, Davis sent an email saying he was canceling the meeting because he felt that the manner in which it was called could be a violation of the state Freedom of Information Act.

He also suggested that the county seek a declaratory action from a judge to determine the clerk issue.

Callanan then responded via email that the meeting would be held, and Davis could immediately make a motion to adjourn after it was called to order.

Instead, during a Finance Committee meeting that was to precede the council meeting, the committee went into executive session to discuss an amendment to an ordinance that would allow council to vote to seek an outside legal opinion when necessary. Currently only the county attorney has that authority.

When they returned, Callanan said the council meeting would be postponed to later this week.

“What I think is best for the county is that we sit down and try to let cooler heads prevail on this,” he said.

Callanan, Davis, County Attorney Nicole Scott Ewing and Daniel Island lawyer Josh Whitley will meet today to try to iron out the issue.

“It may still come to (seeking a judge’s opinion),” Callanan said. “But we are going to try and give this one shot ... and see if there is common ground. Right now there doesn’t seem to be any.”

Davis said he was also satisfied with the decision.

“If we can meet and work out everything rather than argue about it at council, that’s the way to go,” he said.

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