Executive session request results in considerable discussion – Pelzer

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By Stan Welch
Pelzer Town Council received an unmodified opinion from their auditor, Josh Garvin, Tuesday night. That is an opinion that states that the information provided for the audit contained no material flaws, and was indeed accurate information.
He went on to say, however, that the auditing staff had to spend a lot of time and effort in helping prepare the information so that it met the accounting standards for a clean opinion, the most favorable one possible. Due to that, the management letter that accompanied the audit document contained notice of a material weakness.
Bill Davis, the volunteer who oversees the town’s greatly reduced recreation programs, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying that the town of Williamston will not allow Pelzer to field any baseball or softball teams without their approval. He added that the Williamston recreation director refuses to return Davis’s phone calls or communicate with him in any way.
Davis then told Mayor pro tem Mike Matthews that he would like an executive session at the end of the agenda to discuss a personal matter.
Councilman Gary Pridmore then raised a matter of some debris that had resulted from a lot being cleared. The debris was left in an unsightly pile on some property near the river, which is apparently owned by the Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC). Gilbert Garrett, a PHC member, asked Pridmore why the PHC hadn’t been made aware of the situation. “I would rather be talked to than talked about,” he said. “Why didn’t you call someone? You know who we are.”
Tensions rose quickly as Pridmore defended his actions in putting the matter on the agenda, saying that he and Town Clerk Cheryl Boudreau had only recently identified the owners of the property as the PHC. “I’m not trying to belittle you or the PHC,” said Pridmore. Garrett responded that he wasn’t trying to belittle Pridmore; a claim Pridmore disputed.   After a couple more minutes of back and forth, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Matthews prepared to go into executive session per Mr. Davis’s request.
The media representative on hand asked the mayor to explain the nature of the executive session, which state law allows for a very limited list of reasons; and none of which seemed to apply to the circumstances. Davis reiterated that it was for a personal matter. Since personnel matters are one of the acceptable reasons for the closed door meetings, the reporter asked specifically if personnel was what was meant.
Informed that it was not, the reporter reminded the mayor pro tem that legal advice, personnel, and contractual matters are the legitimate reasons allowed by state law. During the subsequent discussion, it was confirmed that Davis is not a town employee or official, and therefore had absolutely no standing to request such a session.
The reporter’s information was taken into consideration and the session was denied, whereupon the mayor pro tem told Davis to speak with him privately after the meeting and he would move the request forward.
The mayor then sought and received a motion and a vote to adjourn. After ten minutes during which Councilwoman Olene Bear spoke privately with Davis, and the majority (and a quorum) of the Council remained in chambers, along with the audience, the reporter left cautioning the mayor pro tem about taking any action, official or otherwise that would circumvent the state law on closed sessions.