Atlantic Beach town manager placed on leave

akelley@thesunnews.com, bdickerson@thesunnews.comDecember 13, 2012 

— Two leaders in Atlantic Beach were released from responsibilities in a special Town Council meeting Thursday night continuing a series of major changes to the town’s leadership.

Mayor Retha Pierce, Councilwoman Charlene Taylor and Councilman Jake Evans spent about an hour in executive session where they said they discussed Town Manager Calvin Blanton, before voting unanimously in open session to approve five motions.

Those actions included releasing Blanton, who was not in attendance, of all duties and placing him on administrative leave with pay pending a hearing, and stripping Councilwoman Carolyn Cole of her duties as mayor pro-tem. Cole also did not attend the meeting, neither did Councilwoman Windy Price.

The shakeup Wednesday was the latest involving town leadership which recently saw the resignation of the town’s police chief and still is awaiting the outcome of the governor-ordered election in May.

No date was set Thursday for a hearing for Blanton.

“Blanton is ignoring the council,” Taylor said. “We don’t have a police department, we don’t have a staff in town hall. All these things are happening and we don’t know why.”

Taylor said she didn’t know where Blanton was Thursday and said he hasn’t been answering any council member’s phone calls. The Sun News’ attempts to reach Blanton at Town Hall this month have been unsuccessful.

An administrative assistant, Linda Cheetam, was named to take over Blanton’s responsibilities on a temporary basis.

In addition to taking away Cole’s mayor pro tem duties, the three council members voted to remove her as an authorized check signer for the town. Those duties instead, were given to Taylor. Pierce also was authorized to sign checks for the town.

These decisions came about two weeks after council members confirmed the police chief, the last man remaining from a three-person force, had left the town because he wasn’t getting paid. The town is currently being patrolled by Horry County police.

Taylor said she hopes the changes approved Thursday night help to shed light on the town’s financial status.

“They say we don’t have any money,” she said. “We’re going to find out who’s got money, whether we have any or not. I guess we do, but we want to know.”

Additionally, she said the decisions hopefully will lay a solid foundation for Atlantic Beach headed into next year.

Election appealed again

Meanwhile, Price has filed a notice of appeal with the South Carolina Supreme Court in reference to the results of the May 22 special election in Atlantic Beach.

Brenda Shealy, deputy clerk of court for the state Supreme Court, said Price’s notice of appeal was filed Nov. 27. It is in the early stages, and a ruling has not been issued, she added.

Price’s filing follows an appeal filed by Pierce on Sept. 13.

Shealy said Pierce still is awaiting a transcript of the court hearing and no decision has been reached.

Both Pierce and Price were mayoral candidates in May’s special election. Evans won the election with 84 votes to incumbent Pierce’s five and Price’s one.

The two appealed the results with the Horry County Circuit Court. Both appeals were dismissed and the results affirmed.

In their appeals, Pierce and Price made allegations of voter intimidation and that the election was improper. Their cases were separate, and heard by two different judges – Judge Derham Cole for Price, and Judge Larry Hyman for Pierce.

Evans still hasn’t been sworn in as mayor, as the cases continue to move through the court system.

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.

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