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Goose Creek councilwoman drops hiring controversy lawsuit against mayor

Goose Creek City Council divided on appointment to planning commission

Goose Creek Councilwoman Gayla McSwain (from left), Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Condon and Mayor Greg Habib during the council meeting on May 14. McSwain dropped her lawsuit against the mayor after receiving copies of more than 30 resumes for the city administrator position. File/Staff

A Goose Creek councilwoman has dropped her lawsuit against the mayor after receiving job applications for the soon-to-be-vacant city administrator's job that were once kept secret.

Councilwoman Gayla McSwain dropped her lawsuit against Mayor Greg Habib after receiving copies of more than 30 resumes for the city administrator position. Earlier this month, she was told she couldn't have access to them and that Habib was conducting the search without the guidance of council. 

Last week, Circuit Judge Roger Young ruled from the bench that council members must have access to the applications.

"As a result of my lawsuit, my fellow Council members now have the information they need to make an informed decision that is in the best interest of the people of Goose Creek," she said in a statement. 

The controversy over the city administrator vacancy has taken up the majority of the attention in Goose Creek this month. 

Habib said 30 or more candidates had been vetted and two had been interviewed in the Upstate to find a replacement for Jake Broom, who has served as city administrator since 2016 and is leaving the position April 15.

Habib kept council informed of his process by email. In one message sent March 4, he bragged about all the candidates having ties to the Palmetto State. 

“I have identified 8 highly qualified candidates who I believe would be a good fit to our organization,” he wrote. “To determine this, I emphasized high level administrative experience and a connection to South Carolina. In fact, 7 of the 8 are in South Carolina now, and the 8th actually lived in Goose Creek as a kid.”

After McSwain raised concerns about the way the process was being conducted and filed her lawsuit, Habib and a majority of council passed a resolution that formally allowed him to vet the finalists.

McSwain was the only dissenting vote.

Habib said the lawsuit being dropped was "confirmation" that his initial process was within the guidelines of council. 

McSwain's lawsuit initially asked for the mayor to be investigated for violating the Freedom of Information Act and to halt the search process entirely. Now that the suit has been dropped, the hiring process will continue. 

The finalists are set to be presented to council March 23, but it isn't clear if the process will be delayed because of precautions being taken amid coronavirus. Goose Creek has closed its municipal buildings and canceled most public meetings through the remainder of the month. 

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Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly reports on the military community across South Carolina. He also covers growth and development in Berkeley County. Previously, he wrote for the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.

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