Berkeley chief defends Hehn, hires councilman for finance

Marc Hehn

Berkeley County Supervisor Bill Peagler on Monday defended the hiring of a county employee who was forced out a decade ago.

In addition, he announced the hiring of Councilman Tim Callanan, who represents District 2, as deputy supervisor for finance, overseeing the county's $61 million operating budget. Callanan said he will resign his council position effective noon Tuesday.

In December, Peagler named six other department heads, including Marc Hehn as deputy supervisor for general services. Hehn was the Moncks Corner town administrator for eight years while Peagler was mayor.

Peagler and Callanan will both be paid $106,658, the same salary former Deputy Supervisor Kace Smith received.

In a termination letter to Hehn on July 8, 2005, then-Supervisor Jim Rozier cited Hehn's management style, complaints from staff and a lack of trust in Hehn.

Rozier, Berkeley supervisor from 1990 to 2006, said Monday he has not seen the documents since he left office.

"I don't think it would be proper for me to comment 10 years after the fact," he said.

In the letter, Rozier wrote that Hehn, director of the county Water and Sanitation Authority, intentionally provided incorrect information on the Shulerville/Honey Hill water project, which could have cost the county $500,000 in grants.

"I cannot trust a director who would knowingly send me a false document to sign," the letter says.

"For these reasons, I am terminating your employment with Berkeley County Water and Sanitation Authority effective immediately."

In a resignation agreement signed July 12, 2005, Hehn "waives all claims and rights to any past, present, or future position of employment with the County, and agrees not to apply for employment with the County in the future."

Hehn declined comment on Monday, but Peagler said in an emailed statement, "Mr. Hehn did not apply for or seek employment with the County; I appointed him. With over 42 years of experience in public service, Mr. Hehn is a seasoned veteran and consummate professional in whom I have great confidence."

Callanan, one of the most vocal members on County Council in recent years, will become a county employee as soon as his resignation becomes effective.

"I always viewed County Council as something that I love doing," he said. "This position gives me an opportunity to do what I love to do and to a make a living doing it, and those opportunities are very rare in life."

A fiscal conservative and former financial advisor, Callanan has been on council for eight years, including serving as chairman of the Finance Committee for the last two years.

He led the charge to increase the property tax credit for taxpayers from 71 to 80 percent, give employees a cost-of-living raise, replace aging police cruisers and ambulances and add officers at the detention center.

"I think the supervisor was looking for someone who had dug deep into the budget, so that when we go into the process this year, we know realistically what can and cannot be done," he said.

Callanan said he will start working right away on the next budget, which goes into effect July 1.

"Now, it's that awkward period where you've got to spend the next six months under someone else's budget," he said.

"Things still look pretty strong, but there's a lot of things, particularly with public safety, that need to be addressed sooner rather than later."

Peagler said last week at his swearing-in ceremony that emergency services are one of his top priorities.

A Daniel Island resident, Callanan also previously served as chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Party.

Candidate filing for Callanan's vacated seat will be Jan. 23 to Feb. 2. The primary will be March 24 and the special election May 12, according to Adam Hammons, director of voter registration and elections.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.