NORWAY CITY COUNCIL: Organization says mayor cannot overrule council vote | national news

A mayor’s decision to nullify the votes of two council members at the August city council meeting has been challenged by at least one council member.

The dispute began over an ordinance that would change the way council members are elected in the county town of Orangeburg in Norway.

At an August 1 meeting, Norway Mayor Tracie Clemons presented the second reading of an ordinance calling for a referendum in November so voters can decide whether or not to move from single-member council constituencies to election. members at large, all voters being able to vote. for all council seats.

The city still has an open seat in District 4 after the filing deadline expires with no one looking for the seat. The special election is September 13.

Clemons noted at the meeting that the city is in its third election and still hasn’t held the District 4 seat, saying this is proof that the single-member district method the city has used since the 1980s does not work anymore.

Norway’s city council had given its first-reading approval to the ordinance setting the referendum question at a July 11 meeting. The city was preparing to consider the second final reading of the ordinance at the August 1 meeting before District 3 Councilman Gregg Covington moved a motion to change the ordinance and not hold the referendum , which would have been put to the ballot on September 13.

District 1 Councilor Almanda Holiday seconded the motion, with District 2 Councilor Kelvin Crosby abstaining.

Clemons then said she would overrule Covington and Holiday’s votes “as mayor and CEO” and for “the betterment of the city.”

“As mayor and CEO and looking at the totality and overall functioning of the city, I have the right to overrule this vote,” Clemons said at the August 1 meeting, then pushing the vote and declaring the final order.

Orangeburg County Director of Voter Registration and Elections Aurora Smalls later said, “There are no changes regarding the referendum. So he will still be on the ballot. … I really have nothing to do with anything. I’ll do whatever the city sends me. So if they don’t send me any changes, it has nothing to do with me. They put the question to us.

Covington later said he took the mayor’s issue overruling two council votes to the Municipal Association of South Carolina.

“Well, yes, we’re looking at how it was handled at this second reading. In fact, there were two against and one abstention, and then the mayor overruled it and said she had the power to to pass. We didn’t think that was the right way to go, and that’s being looked into,” said Covington, who declined to elaborate on who the “us” is.

Norway has a strong-mayor, weak-council form of municipal government, where the mayor is the administrative manager of the city, responsible to the council for the administration of all city affairs under his or her responsibility.

The mayor’s powers include, but are not limited to, directing and supervising the administration of all departments, officers and agencies of the municipality and presiding over council meetings and voting like other council members. The duties, however, do not include the right to veto council votes.

MASC field manager Ashley Kellahan, who later said the organization had been in touch with Covington, said in an email: “Regardless of the form of government, mayors have no veto power under South Carolina state law. The mayor has the power to act and vote as a council member, not just in the event of a tie vote. All decisions are determined by a majority vote of a quorum of council, unless state or local law requires a higher number of votes, which is rare.

“The mayor’s vote can break a tie if it, together with the votes of the other members of council, results in the number of votes necessary for the adoption of the motion under consideration. A mayor, after voting, cannot overturn the result of a vote,” she said.

Kellahan continued, “I think Mayor Clemons will bring it up at their next meeting.”

Covington said the matter would indeed be addressed at the next board meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, September 12.

“It wasn’t a tie. That’s the whole point I was trying to make, and at the meeting I made the statement. I said, ‘You didn’t break a tie.’ She said she was a manager and she had the power to override us. I go, ‘No, it’s a democracy.’ Why did we vote? If you’re going to bypass us, why would we even vote? said the adviser.

Covington continued, “Hopefully we will sort it out. … I was not there for the first reading. I don’t know what happened there. I didn’t gain any knowledge or experience on that first read, but I was there for the second. That’s when I did what I did because too many people who had heard a little about it said no, they didn’t want that, ”said Covington, referring to the the city’s potential shift from single-member council districts to elective members at-large.

“A lot of people in town really feel like it’s not necessary to vote in general. In fact, this was formed many years so that there would always be representation of at least two black members who lived in the black community…and that was a guarantee that there would be equal representation,” said he declared.

The councilman continued, “In my opinion, until the city has a lot more white people living in the black area and black people living in the white area, it should stay as it is because it gives fair representation.”

“I want what suits everyone. … If you went generally, you could have four members, and they could be neighbors – two from one household and two from another. What about the other three neighborhoods? They don’t have a say, so they don’t have any rep on that at all,” Covington said.

“That’s why we’re against it right now. It just seems like that’s just not the thing for Norway right now,” he said.

Clemons said in a text message that she had no comment on this story.

Comments are closed.