Strains are showing in city’s search for a manager

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

The search for a new Darlington city manager has produced its first public dispute. Sparks flew at last week’s City Council session when former mayor Gloria Hines stood before council to read into the record an anonymous letter alleging, among other things, that efforts are being made to sneak in a fifth finalist for the manager, beyond the four the city had already named. “I was very disturbed today when I received this,” Hines said of the letter, which was filled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, several times referring to the mayor as the “Major.” “I don’t know where it came from, but I got it,” Hines said at council’s July 13 meeting. “ … This is not my writing. This came from somebody – I don’t know who it came from.” The letter was signed by “Very Concerned Citizens of the City.” Hines read the letter aloud as the council session was being live-streamed on video. It claims that 2,000 people are prepared to sign, or already have signed, a petition to the federal Department of Justice asking the agency to place Darlington under federal review for financial and ethical irregularities. Before Hines finished reading the entire letter, Mayor Curtis Boyd told her that her speaking time was up – that she had exceeded the five minutes a member of the public is allowed to address council on an issue. (The five-minute rule is always spelled out on council agendas under the heading “Citizens Wishing to Appear Before Council.”) Hines continued reading the letter; Boyd – who defeated Hines to win the mayor’s job – again asked her to stop. Police Chief Kelvin Washington, who was attending the meeting, tried to get Hines’ attention: “Miss Hines! Miss Hines!” “You know what?” Hines then said. “Payback is a (expletive) – ” “Miss Hines! Miss Hines!” Washington continued to call out to her. “You wait a minute!” Hines said. “He did me like that!” After a few more moments, Hines said, “I said what I had to say,” and returned to her seat in the council chamber. Council member Sheila Baccus later told council that Hines had not been treated fairly. She said that others who had addressed council often were allowed to go beyond the five-minute limit. “When you enforce the rules, enforce them for everybody,” said Baccus. This incident aside, strains are starting to show in the city’s search to find a manager to replace 11-year city manager Howard Garland, who left at the end of March after council voted not to renew his contract. On July 6, council called a special executive session to talk about choosing a new city manager – a meeting that looked like it could lead to a vote. But after about an hour, loud debate could be heard from within the council chamber. Shortly after that, two council members walked out. One of them stood at the doorway and told someone inside, “I’m not going to sit here for two hours and listen to y’all argue if we’re not even going to vote tonight.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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