S’ville council delays final vote on limiting mayor’s powers

Johnson

SUMMERVILLE — Mayor-elect Wiley Johnson’ job description won’t change after all.

Town Council in November passed first reading of two ordinances that would limit the mayor’s powers and restore the town as a weak-mayor form of government with a town administrator, meaning the mayor would preside over meetings but the administrator would handle the town’s daily operations.

Johnson, whose campaign included restoring the administrator position, called the move a “recipe for chaos and disaster.”

“What council is saying is, ‘You promised, so we’re just helping you out with your promise,’ ” he said. “Well, that’s my promise to live up to, not yours to demand.”

The final readings of the ordinances were scheduled for Wednesday’s meeting, but at a Monday finance committee meeting, Mayor Bill Collins said at least two councilmen have met with Johnson and “as a result the second reading of those (ordinances) will not be taken up by this council but will be deferred to January when the new administration takes office.”

Collins, a one-term mayor, lost his Nov. 3 re-election bid to newcomer Johnson, who received 53 percent of the vote. Johnson takes office Jan. 6, along with Councilwoman-elect Christine Czarnik, who ousted District 2 incumbent Terry Jenkins.

When Collins took office in 2011, he also assumed the job of town administrator, a position that was vacant, and council later voted to increase his salary from $15,000 to $45,000 annually.

Collins gave up the administrator duties on Nov. 11 and clerk Lisa Wallace was appointed interim administrator, a job she also held when Collins took office.

Collins said the move put the town back where it was in 2011.

But when council tried to change the record to reflect the mayor’s powers, more than 200 people packed into the November council meeting.

The ordinances called for the mayor to continue as the town’s chief executive officer and gave him power to make decisions in times of emergency, but he would not have authority to give direction to the administrator or any department heads without council’s approval.

On passing first reading, council added the caveat that its members meet with Johnson, whose campaign platform included restoring the administrator position.

Johnson, who has set up office in a conference room at Town Hall, said Monday that he has met with councilmen Aaron Brown, Bob Jackson and Walter Bailey.

On Wednesday, council also will discuss appointments of residents to citizen boards and commissions and council members to standing committees. Town law currently calls for those appointments to be made in December, but Johnson has asked to delay them until he takes office.

Brown asked council to postpone that, too, saying the December appointments are a holdover from the days when the town elections were in May, but he could not get support from any of his fellow council members.

In 2013, council elections were moved to November.

“It’s not like the dam’s going to break or something if we don’t make these appointments,” Brown said. “The town is in good shape. I just think it makes sense to stave this off until January and then give ourselves maybe 90 days to decide.”

Johnson said after the meeting he was disappointed that Brown’s motion failed to get a second.

“What they are attempting to do is appoint committees for me,” he said. “For them to assume that they can appoint my committees, I think, is arrogant.”

The committee did vote to discuss Wednesday the town’s organizational chart, which lists Collins as a mayor-administrator.

“We have an organizational chart on file that says that Mayor Collins is essentially running the day-to-day operations of the town, and that’s not accurate,” said Councilman Bill McIntosh. The chart is a resolution that can be changed by vote at any time, he said.

Town Council’s next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, 200 S. Main St.