Surfside Beach names new town administrator

From WMBF News partner My Horry News:

Surfside Beach leaders have chosen the town's new administrator.

Dennis Pieper, who currently serves as town manager for Fort Mill, will begin work on July 16, said Surfside Beach mayor Bob Childs.

He will take the reins from Jim Duckett, who has been the town's interim administrator since February.

Controversy arose in January when then-town administrator Micki Fellner and then-deputy administrator Jon Harrah were ousted by votes of town council.

Fellner will be paid based on her annual salary of $101,430 until the end of her contract in June.

Harrah has a lawsuit pending against Surfside Beach over his dismissal.

Town police chief Kenneth Hofmann agreed to act as an acting administrator less than a week following the firings before Duckett eventually began serving in the role.

"I'm excited to have a new administrator coming in although the one we have now [Duckett] has done a great job," Childs said. "I think everything will go real smooth."

Childs said the town had about 50 or so applicants for the position, though he didn't give details as to how many interviews were conducted. He said Pieper's long-time experience as a town manager and administrator made him well suited for the position.

Council members had spoken about the resumes the town received for the job in multiple executive sessions.

Last week, town leaders agreed after an executive session to direct Duckett to begin negotiating a contract with a candidate for the position, although they didn't name who the candidate was.

According to his contract, Pieper will be paid an annual base salary of $104,000 for three years. The contract also includes a monthly car allowance of $600.

The contract quotes a section of the town code that says a town administrator may be removed from office for cause by a majority vote from town council.

"In all cases, the Town Administrator shall receive 60 days' notice of his removal or severance pay for 60 days when such removal is made effective by majority vote of all the members of Town Council," the contract reads.

But, the contract says, Pieper's signature thereby waives the 60-day requirement and also ensures that, via a majority vote from council, his contract can be terminated "without notice or comment."

If this were to happen, the town would pay Pieper $52,000 as severance within five days of the termination, according to the contract.

Pieper received a master's degree in business administration from Southern Wesleyan University and also has a bachelor's degree in business administration and e-commerce, according to his bio on the Fort Mill website, which states he has been "a Manager in the public sector in South Carolina for over 25 years."

Pieper could not immediately be reached for comment.

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