The fingerpointing over who is to blame for the extraordinary number of City of Georgetown officials who have left their jobs recently took a personal turn at a special City Council meeting today.
Mayor Jack Scoville — without using the word fault — said a big problem is contact Council member Jeanette Ard has had with employees through the years.
The purpose of the meeting was to interview a possible interim administrator.
Chris Eldridge, the current administrator, will soon take over as Horry County administrator. His last day in Georgetown will be Wednesday.
Council interviewed a potential interim administrator in executive session. Afterwards, Scoville said council will meet again Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss and interview other possible people for the temporary position.
After that decision was announced, Scoville turned his attention to the number of resignations.
As reported in today’s Georgetown Times, both the city’s finance director — Jessica Miller —and her assistant — Walt Ackerman — have announced they are leaving.
Miller’s final day was Thursday. She has accepted a job with a private company.
Ackerman leaves next week to become the new Williamsburg County finance director.
Others who have left are Elizabeth Tucker, head of the city’s Building and Planning Department. She resigned in mid-May.
The city’s purchasing agent, Bonnie Infinger, retired but is working part-time under a contract.
Kevin Rapps, head of the Information Technology Department left earlier this year for a job in the private sector.
The blame game
At today’s meeting, Scoville addressed the issue by saying he has been told of some “troubling” contact Ard has had with workers.
He quoted a city ordinance (Section 2-87) which states any contact between council and employees about their jobs should be made through the administrator. Council is not supposed to have direct contact with workers about such matters.
“One employee said he was called a liar by a city council member,” Scoville said. He later identified Ard as the council member in which he was referring.
Scoville said another worker said he has been accused by Ard of taking bribes.
“There has been inappropriate communication with employees,” he said. Two or three current employees say they are very uncomfortable.”
Because Scoville said Ard “repeatedly” violates the ordinance, he issued a “directive” during the meeting.
“Any contact between employees and Ms. Ard must be in writing to the administrator. This is to protect both the city and the workers,” Scoville said. “She has been making this inappropriate contact for a long time.”
After the mayor concluded his remarks, Ard asked if she could respond. Councilman Rudolph Bradley immediately made a motion to adjourn the meeting. His motion passed.
After the meeting, Ard said the incident in which she allegedly called someone a liar happened two years ago and involved a member of the building and planning department.
She said that worker was dishonest when he told the mayor Ard came to his house on a holiday asking him to leave home to investigate a noise complaint being made by a Broad Street resident.
Ard said the worker later apologized to her for the accusation.
About the alleged bribery by a worker, Ard said she had no solid proof but did talk about her concerns with Eldridge.
“I thought he would want to know how the employees were acting,” she said.
Ard said she feels the mayor was “bullying” her by attacking her publicly and by not giving her a chance to respond during the meeting.
“If he has a problem with me he should have contacted me,” she said.
Ard said she has heard complaints about “bad behavior” on the part of Scoville and she has took her concerns to City attorney Elise Crosby rather than address the accusations in public.
Ard would not elaborate on the complaints she has heard from the public.
Late Friday, Scoville — in a post on the Georgetown Times Facebook page — said the employee called a liar by Ard was not a member of the Planning Department but he did not identify the worker.
“She in fact called this person a liar on two occasions. As recently as this week she accused this employee of taking an action without Council approval when the action had been specifically directed by Council,” Scoville states. “The fact she confronted this employee directly about this matter is in direct violation of the ordinance.”
Scoville also readdressed the employee bribery accusation made by Ard.
“She was asked by the administrator to provide a written statement about the solicitation of bribery charge so that we could have SLED investigate it. She has never provided any such statement but continues to repeat this allegations to other city employees. She herself is the person who supposedly was solicited for the bribe so if her allegations are true, her testimony alone would amount to ‘solid proof,’” Scoville said. “It is clear that the other members of Council are fed up with Ms. Ard's harassment of employees in violation of the clear language of the language of the city ordinance.”
By Scott Harper
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