James Island loses S.C. appeal

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley

The city of Charleston on Monday will ask a state court to appoint a receiver to disperse the assets of the town of James Island.

The state Supreme Court on Friday rejected the town’s appeal of the court’s ruling in June that the town had not incorporated properly in 2006. But there was disagreement late in the day as to exactly what the appeal rejection means.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, whose legal department has successfully challenged all three of James Island’s attempts to incorporate, said the court’s unanimous rejection of the town’s request for a new hearing means the town has ceased to exist.

“The town is not a legal entity, it no longer exists by order of the court today,” Riley said. “The town is extinguished.”

Leonard Blank, a James Island town councilman and mayor pro tem, insisted that until the town receives an official cease and desist court order, business goes on as usual, and “Town Hall will be open.”

Town officials already are working on what would be a fourth incorporation, but Riley said he hopes James Islanders not already in the city of Charleston will instead seek to be part of “the stable municipality of the city of Charleston.”

“We now can receive annexation petitions from citizens of James Island who would like to be in the city of Charleston,” Riley said. “We are making a special effort to welcome people into the city.”

Blank said the process for shutting down the town involves the Supreme Court directing the circuit court to issue an order. “That could take a month,” he said.

He cautioned Riley about pursuing annexations on James Island until the town is officially gone.

“Any annexations that (Riley) signs until the court puts its stamp on the end of the town, he may have to eat those,” Blank said.

Riley said the town has assets, including local-option sales-tax revenue, that will be distributed to other municipalities.

“There is still money in bank accounts that doesn’t belong to the town any more,” Riley said.

He said that after the two previous court-ordered town dissolutions, Charleston County officials were appointed to disperse the town’s assets and pay any outstanding bills.

Blank said he’s uncertain exactly how much cash the town may have at the moment, and said the town owns no land and has few valuable tangible assets. “We have an old truck and a water tank we got from the state,” he said.

Bill Woolsey, who became James Island mayor a year ago, is traveling on the West Coast but said by phone Friday that the rejection of the town’s appeal was not unexpected. He said town officials and volunteers have been working since June on a new incorporation effort.

The town first incorporated in 1993, then for a second time in 2002 and a third time in 2006. Each incorporation was successfully challenged by the city.