Surfside Beach council votes on town admin position in special meeting

Surfside Beach’s town council will not remove its administrator, after four members voted down the idea in a surprise meeting Saturday morning.

Council members Julie Samples, Mark Johnson, David Pellegrino and Mayor Bob Childs voted to keep Administrator Micki Fellner after a roughly 40-minute closed session to discuss Fellner’s job status.

Councilmen Tim Courtney, Ron Ott and Randle Stevens voted in favor of the idea, which Stevens introduced “a motion of no confidence” to remove the administrator.

The meeting was packed with a raucous crowd of residents, who openly laughed when Childs insisted that the discussion needed to be held in private to protect the town from potential lawsuits.

Four members called for the special meeting the day before – Ott, Courtney, Stevens and Johnson.

Johnson said he felt the meeting was necessary so that some members of council, including himself, would be able to express their issues to Fellner. He said none of his complaints raised to the level of firing her.

“She thanked us for the input,” Johnson said of the meeting. “Some people were more vocal than others.”

Johnson was also the only person to vote to hold the meeting and to vote to keep Fellner. As he was walking out, resident Tom Dodge shouted at Johnson: “Get a job at Seaworld, that’s where the flippers belong!”

Fellner left promptly after the meeting, and could not be reached later by The Sun News. Pellegrino told The Sun News yesterday he thought the meeting could be related to the recent dismissal of Sabrina Morris, the town’s top planning official.

On Saturday, Pellegrino offered few details.

“I just don’t think there was grounds for [Fellner’s] dismissal,” he said.

Stevens declined to give a reason for why he suggested the motion to remove Fellner.

“I did what I thought was right.” Stevens said.

He did point to a line of the town’s code that said the administrator “is responsible for keeping the town council fully informed.”

While staffing in the town will not change, the meeting Saturday underlined the divisions among Surfside’s elected officials. Three members of council said on Friday they had been totally unaware of the meeting before its agenda was publicly posted. Sparks flew from the dais before the panel went into closed session, as Ott and Courtney stood up at one point to protest the use of a new town attorney for the meeting.

“Unfortunately, there is no communication on this council,” Courtney said at one point.

Childs later retorted: “Possibly this lack of communication reflects on the lack of communication to tell everybody on council we were going to have a meeting today. Huh? The shoe’s on both feet.”

Later, Childs told The Sun News that on larger issues, council works “in lockstep.”

“We’re all looking out for the better of the town,” he said. “Big issues, we all agree on.”

But Samples had a different perspective.

“I’m worried,” Samples said. “We are better than this, and we can do better and we need to do better. We all need to communicate better.”

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ