Shaffer termination upheld by City Council
by Laura Stone | August 7, 2018 9:43 pm
The Manning City Council met Tuesday evening to deliberate and vote on the Blair Shaffer termination on the heels of the Grievance Committee making its recommendation that he be reinstated. After the approval of the agenda, Mayor Julia Nelson, Mayor Pro-tem Sherry Welle and Councilman Clayton Pack, all members of the Public Safety Committee, recused themselves from the deliberations and voting.
The remaining four Councilmembers—Ervin Davis, Diane Georgia, Julius Dukes and Johnny Gordon—entered executive session, where they remained for an hour and a half.
Upon returning to open session, Georgia was voted in as chairperson for the remaining four Councilmembers, due to the recusal of three of the Councilmembers. Gordon made a motion that they reject the Grievance Committee’s recommendation and uphold the Public Safety Committee’s decision to terminate Shaffer. The motion was seconded by Dukes. At this point, Davis made a statement.
“Madam Chairperson, I’d like to take this moment to make a comment. This has been a hard process, not only for me, but for Council that’s involved. I appreciate everybody’s thoughts and concerns. This just happens to be the first time, I think, since I’ve been on Council involved in this, when a group of people have been at odds concerning an issue. But my recommendation to everybody that’s involved, my constituents and this community is that we just move forward and try to build our community as we have in the past and we just agree to disagree. I just appreciate you all have given me the privilege to serve as Councilman in district three. I want to tell my colleagues how much I appreciate them and thank them for their service,” said Davis.
Georgia called for a vote on the motion. As chairperson, Georgia did not vote. Dukes and Gordon voted in favor of upholding the termination. Davis voted against, leaving the termination in place with a 2-1 vote.
Following the proceedings, Davis spoke to the Manning Times.
“I was in hopes that the voting body that was there tonight would uphold the grievance side of it. I was disappointed. I can’t even bring words to where I can describe how disappointed I was. But this isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed, and it won’t be the last time. I just move on. That’s why I made comments in the Council meeting that we just need to all pull together,” said Davis.
Davis feels the process has been a learning process for everyone concerned. He does, however, still stand by his assertion that the ordinance was not presented in its full form in the June 5 meeting. Davis read out loud the South Carolina Code of Laws Title 5 – Municipal Corporations, Chapter 7 General Structure, Organization, Powers, Duties, Functions and Responsibilities of All Municipalities, Section 5-7-270 Form and procedures for introducing and passing ordinances, which states ordinances must be presented in final form and must have two readings.
According to Davis, they were advised they only had to present an ordinance number. However, this is not what the state law says.
“It never was presented in any form. It was just discussed. The ordinance was written the next day,” said Davis. “I know for fact that ordinance wasn’t read in its fullness in the June 5 meeting.”
According to Davis, what was discussed in executive session was City Administrator’s role on the Public Safety Committee. As City Administrator, Tanner’s role is direct supervisor to the City’s department heads. The only recommendation made was to remove Tanner off the Public Safety Committee.
Tanner’s role has been to come to the Committees and Council with recommendations. Once it was presented to Council, an issue would be discussed and voted on, and Tanner would return to the department heads to implement the decisions.
“Scott has a good relationship with each department head. He’s a perfect fit for our community, there’s no doubt about it. I felt if there was anything that might become controversial, it would be better for Scott not to be stuck in the middle. No matter what Council decided, Scott’s role would remain the same. Changing his role was only a short-term thing, and it would go back to normal,” said Davis.
According to Davis, the discussion in executive session on June 5 only discussed a temporary move to put a buffer of sorts between Tanner and the situation arising in the police department. Davis hoped they would avoid friction between Tanner and the police department once decisions of any kind were made. Once the situation was addressed, Davis felt it was intended that Tanner would be placed back in his original role.
“There were things going on where we wanted changes to take place to make the police department better. All the ideas and thoughts we had that we shared with Chief Shaffer were things to improve the department and improve the relationship with the police department and the police officers with our community,” said Davis.
Davis also asserts that there was no original intent to terminate Shaffer, but that the Council wanted to open a dialog with Shaffer and address departmental concerns. He does concede that things have not gone as he hoped but maintains a hope for things to get better in the long run.
“When you have a situation like this, all you tend to look at is the bad. But I think if there’s any good that comes out of this whole ordeal is that we revisit the committees and their responsibilities. We may readjust some of the language to clean it up so the Council will always have the last say-so. We did [have the last say-so] in this case, but it went through a process I don’t think was necessary,” said Davis.
Davis believes in the council form of government and feels the Council should always be a part of any major decision for the City. He feels he was elected to be the voice for his district.
“If I’m not willing to stand up and speak for my district, they’ll get someone else to do it,” said Davis. “I’m in hopes the Council and all of us can get our acts together and get back to business taking care of the city and coming up with good ideas to bring harmony and joy to our community. I don’t know how long that process will take, because some people take things personally. Nothing that I did was personal. What I did was what I thought was in the best interests of the City of Manning.”