Commission head hasn't done anything wrong, Smith says

MOUNT PLEASANT — Mayor Pro Tem Kruger Smith has expressed support for Planning Commission Chairman Steve Brock, who has been under fire for clashing with Town Council.

"I don't want to see Brock thrown off the board. He has not done anything in my opinion that he is not entitled to do," Smith said Thursday.

Brock received an Oct. 22 state Attorney General's opinion that said council changes to the town comprehensive plan require commission approval. Smith said there is no provision in the comprehensive plan for an appointed board, such as the commission, to have jurisdiction over council. Town Attorney Allen Young has said the Attorney General's Office issued an inaccurate reading of the law.

Mayor Harry Hallman said in a Nov. 20 letter to Brock that seeking the Attorney General's opinion without consulting Town Hall was just the latest example of his combative attitude. Hallman suggested that it might be time for Brock to consider whether it would be best for him to resign.

"I see nothing wrong with the mayor sending a letter," Smith said. "If the mayor felt that way, fine. I just feel that you should praise in public and punish in private."

A council member leaked a copy of the letter to the press. An executive session discussion of Planning Commission personnel matters scheduled at last week's council meeting was deferred until next month.

Brock has said he would not resign. "I appreciate the kind and encouraging words from so many people over the past weeks and especially those of Mr. Smith," he said in an e-mail.

The commission agenda for Wednesday lists "protocol for communication on behalf of the commission" as an item under new business. Brock's letter requesting the Attorney General's opinion said it was being sought "on behalf of the Planning Commission." The commission did not vote to ask for the opinion.

Brock downplayed the significance of the agenda item regarding rules for correspondence representing the commission. "It wasn't unexpected. I don't look at it as terrifically important," Brock said.

"If that comes up, that's going to turn into a silly conversation," he said. He has said that he does not need the backing of the commission to seek an Attorney General's opinion.

The town Planning Department, which released the agenda, could not say which commission member requested that the issue of "protocol for communication on behalf of the commission" be placed on the agenda.

Brock said the commission faces more important agenda items, such as evaluation of a planned 96-room extended-stay hotel planned near the entrance of Brickyard Plantation. A quorum of the subdivision residents who met recently to discuss the project unanimously voted to oppose it.

Brock is in the middle of a four-year term on the commission. He has not said whether he will seek re-election in January to a second one-year term as chairman. Council appoints commission members and can remove them under rules spelled out in the town code. Commissioners are not paid.