Darlington’s Municipal Judge speaks out
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, email@example.com
As a follow up to our story in last week’s paper, “City council motion to oust judge,” the News and Press spoke to longtime municipal judge, Daniel B. (“Dan”) Causey, III, at his Darlington office on Friday, June 17.
“I am glad this is over,” said Causey. “And I am looking forward to serving the remaining year of my term.”
Causey was in attendance at the City Council meeting on June 7, 2016 when a motion failed by a 3 – 3 tie with one abstention to open applications for replacement.
The News and Press was given a copy of the letter sent to Judge Causey:
May 10, 2016
Dear Judge Causey:
Your term as City of Darlington Municipal Judge will end on June 30, 2016 and we will be advertising for this position the last week in this month and the first week in June.
If you are interested in this position, please feel free to apply.
Gloria C. Hines, Mayor
City of Darlington
During the June meeting, a letter sent by Causey to each council member was mentioned by councilwoman Carolyn Bruce.
City Manager Howard Garland shared the following details about the position and how it is appointed:
“Dan Causey was appointed as municipal judge 29 years ago by then Mayor Ronnie Ward,” said Garland. “Over the years, Darlington City Council has voted twice on the position of municipal judge- first in June 2009, second was 2013. In 2009, applications were taken for the position. A majority of council voted to keep him in the position. In 2013, a majority vote was also obtained. No formal vote has been taken on his position since 2013.”
Garland explained that this seat is one of the four positions that the mayor and council members hires in this form of government.
“This is one of the positions that the mayor and city council has the authority to hire,” continued Garland. “They hire Municipal Judge, Clerk/Treasurer, City Attorney, and the City Manager. This is not a position that falls under my authority of City Manager. This is a council decision.
As of Monday, Garland said that none of the city council members, nor Mayor Gloria Hines had asked to put the matter back onto the agenda.
The council meets on June 23rd for a budget approval meeting, and the next official monthly meeting will be Tuesday, July 12.
According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, (MASC), “All municipal governments in South Carolina operate under one of three forms of government: mayor-council, council or council-manager. (See details below.)
To read more about the vote, read the June 15 issue of the News and Press, or visit the story: Darlington City Council vote fails to oust longtime city municipal judge The video of this portion of that meeting is embedded into the story.
MASC: Forms of Government
From the Municipal Association of South Carolina, www.masc.sc
Does the form of government really matter?
There are three approved forms of municipal government in South Carolina: mayor-council (strong mayor), council (weak mayor) and council-manager. When the Home Rule Act was adopted in the mid-1970s, all municipalities had to choose to operate under the form that most closely matched how they were structured at the time.
The city can change its form of government only following approval through a public referendum initiated by either a certified petition of 15 percent of the city’s qualified electors or by an ordinance of council.
It is important for elected officials to understand their form of government, how it is designed to operate, and the responsibilities of elected and appointed officials. Beyond understanding how their form of government operates, both elected and appointed officials must respect their form of government and operate within the bounds of their respective roles. Dysfunction occurs when the boundaries become blurred or are ignored.
Roles and responsibilities
State law clearly defines the authority of the mayor and council in both the council-manager and mayor-council forms. In the council form, all authority is vested in the council with the mayor and councilmembers sharing equal authority.
For the council-manager form, state law clearly defines the city manager’s role and responsibilities The law does not, however, address the authority, roles and responsibilities of an administrator, if employed, in the council and mayor-council forms.
To avoid confusion, council (the governing body which includes the mayor) should establish the administrator’s authority, roles and responsibilities in both a job description and approved rules of procedure. Council cannot give the administrator any authority or responsibility that state law has granted to another municipal official.
Whose job is it to play referee?
Council is responsible for ensuring all of its members play by the rules. If necessary, council should challenge actions that run counter to properly established authority, roles and responsibilities. When not otherwise set in state law, council as a body has the authority to act. It is important for council to act as soon as problems arise to prevent a situation from escalating.
Which form of government is best?
While there are advantages and disadvantages associated with all three forms, each is successfully being used across the state.
The City of Anderson operates under the council-manager form of government.
Mayor Terence Roberts explains, “Our council is very committed to this form of government and understands that our role is that of policy makers. We establish goals and priorities for the enterprise and give full authority to our city manager to carry them out. We also understand that our role is not in the day-to-day operations. We don’t micromanage those functions.”
Although similar in size to Anderson, the City of Greer operates under the council form of government. Greer employs and empowers an administrator to manage its day-to-day operations.
Mayor Rick Danner explains “As a part-time mayor with a full-time job in a rapidly growing city, I can’t imagine a better form of government for this type of situation than the council form. Given the vast amount of skills, knowledge, supervision and time that it requires to run a city on a daily basis, having a full-time administrator has been one of the keys to Greer’s success and continued growth. While having a qualified administrator and well-trained, committed staff eases the burden of being involved in the day-to-day operation of the city, it also acts as a buffer between management and the city council which is beneficial to both.
Understanding the roles and responsibilities of the council form of government allows staff to accomplish more and council to focus on their responsibilities in a more effective manner.”
The Town of Fountain Inn utilizes the mayor-council form. Mayor Gary Long believes that this form works well for his town because he has the statutory authority to make decisions in a timely manner without need to convene the full council for every decision. For the city to be successful, Long added, “I understand I must keep council fully informed of my decisions and respect the policies and budgetary restrictions which council has the right to impose.
Maintaining the support of council and communicating effectively is essential to the success when using this form of government.”