Folly council feud erupts in censure threat, legal battle
Folly Beach’s mayor pro tem, known for his candor and blunt assessments of issues on the Edge of America, has filed an injunction to stop his colleagues from ousting him as the stand-in mayor.
Eddie Ellis filed the injunction and a civil suit in state court in Charleston County on Friday against the city of Folly Beach and all his fellow council members: Pennell Clamp, Sandra Hickman, Paul Hume, Tom Scruggs and Dale Stuckey.
The council intends to vote during its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday on a resolution that would censure Ellis for misconduct and remove him from the office of mayor pro tempore. Council elected him to the two-year position on April 10, 2012.
In his complaint, Ellis accused council of conspiring against him during secret meetings in order to draft the resolution, violating Freedom of Information Act laws. He also alleges that council is not following its own rules.
“They’re not anywhere close to following the rules,” said Thomas Goldstein, Ellis’ attorney.
Ellis is seeking punitive damages, a trial by jury, attorney fees, an order by the court keeping council from conducting town business outside of public sessions and from removing Ellis from elective office, according to the complaint.
Ellis has been a dissenting voice on council on a number of controversial disputes, which is why he believes he has become the council’s target, according to his complaint.
Several council members and former town officials drafted notarized affidavits describing problems with Ellis.
Councilman Pennell Clamp said in his affidavit Ellis called him on the phone last month and called him “almost every dirty word in the book.” Clamp also said Ellis said he hoped to see Clamp’s name the next day in the obituaries.
Dale Stuckey wrote in her affidavit Ellis left her a phone message saying Stuckey disgusted her and should go back to wherever she came from, ending with “I’ll see you around.” Stuckey wrote she found the message “not only frightening but also disturbing and non-professional.”
Former Folly Beach Mayor LaVern James wrote in his affidavit that while he was cutting his grass last summer, Ellis came up and said, “I hope your cancer kills you soon so you can die and go to hell.”
Ellis contends that city officials are retaliating against him for his “outspoken opinions on controversial political matters and because the mayor and others view him as a possible candidate for mayor,” according to the complaint.
Reached by phone Monday, Ellis said: “I have reviewed a lot of the affidavits. A lot of them have falsities in them. … They’re ganging up on me because I was very spirited about the so-called retirement of the city administrator.”
Ellis clashed with Mayor Tim Goodwin over the reluctant departure of the city’s former administrator, Toni Connor-Rooks, who said the problem was her unhappy three years under the mayor. Goodwin said he did have a difference of opinion with Connor-Rooks about whether she could work from home.
Ellis said he has always been outspoken and unconventional in his speech during all of his nine years on council, but it’s only after he said he would run for mayor that this move against him materialized.
“I have a right to show my emotions as long as I do so within the letter of the law; it’s a free-speech issue,” he said. “They are on a witch hunt. They are trying to get anything to use against me.”
Sandra Senn, the attorney representing the city and council members, said she needed time to analyze the claim before commenting.