Three Surfside Beach volunteers call it quits

Three Surfside Beach volunteers call it quits
Source: Surfside Beach Facebook page

From WMBF News partner

By Tom O'Dare

"Integrity, common sense and Elvis have a lot in common with me. We've all left the building."

With that, Surfside Beach resident Betty Lowery stormed out of the Surfside Beach town council meeting Tuesday night after having submitted her resignation from the town's Planning Commission.

Her resignation followed that of Sandra Elliott who earlier had also resigned from the same commission.

Both women were upset with the town council, especially with the council's handling of the proposed tree ordinance that was passed Tuesday night.

After months of crafting the ordinance, the planning commission sent it to the council that in turn made drastic changes to it, even before its final passage this week.

Elliott told the council she felt the council had lost faith in the planning commission and the commission had lost faith in the council.

"My integrity and time are important to me," she said. "I'm tired of dealing with a dysfunctional council."

Visibly upset, Lowery told the council she felt like she has been wasting her time trying to help the town.

"I sat here and listened to the tree ordinance discussion," she said. "I don't usually get mad but tonight I'm mad. We gave you a good tree ordinance and you shredded it."

Lowery's term on the commission would have expired March 10, 2019 and Elliott's on July 11, 2020.

A short time later, Harry Kohlmann, chairman of the town's parking committee, said he, too, was upset at how the council treats its committees and volunteers and he would officially turn in his resignation from his position the next morning.

"I disapprove of what you're doing here," Kohlmann said. "It's the worst I've ever seen."

His term on the committee would have expired on Aug. 8, 2020.

Upset with exposure

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Bob Childs read a prepared statement saying the town would legally pursue criminal charges against anyone who posts recordings of what goes on in town council executive sessions.

He said revealing information from an executive session is a criminal offense.

Childs was referring to this past Saturday morning's meeting that had been called to possibly fire town administrator Micki Fellner.

The meeting was held behind closed doors and according to councilmember Julie Samples, Fellner asked to borrow her phone to record the proceedings. Councilmember Ron Ott said he also recorded the session after seeing Samples' phone being used to record.

After the meeting Tuesday night, Childs said information from the meeting was posted online and copies of the recording of the meeting were circulated around town.

The Herald received a copy of the recording from an anonymous source and wrote a story about its contents.

The matter of executive sessions falls under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.

The FOIA does not address or list as a criminal violation the actual revelation of information from a closed meeting but it does say that anyone who records the proceedings of an executive session may be in violation of the act.

The law also says that discussions during the closed sessions must stick to the actual topic that was first announced as the reason for going behind closed doors.

Saturday's recording shows the council and administrator discussed more subjects than just the fate of the administrator. Any deviation from the stated subject is a violation of the law.

Fate of Pier

The town council will hold a special meeting Saturday morning at 9 a.m. to hear from the engineers hired to rebuild the town's pier and to take questions and input from the public and the council.

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