The brewing storm over Ken Starnes' eligibility to serve on the Fort Mill Town Council appears to have dissipated, but a murky cloud remains over the saga.
Starnes, an incumbent councilman, admitted that since about this time last year, he had been living outside town limits in a second home while trying to settle a family matter. More recently, he said he was trying to move into an apartment on Main Street in Fort Mill, but was delayed by unfinished work being done on the property. After a motion requesting that Starnes resign was voted down 3-2 by the council - Starnes, who should have recused himself, was allowed to cast a vote - he said for the record he would be in his new home on Main Street by July 1.
The apartment remains unoccupied, but Starnes told us he moved back into his family's primary home in Fort Mill about two weeks ago and considers the issue over and done with.
For all intents and purposes, it probably is. That is, unless a resident or official decides to persuade the state ethics commission to investigate whether any action is required based on the months Starnes continued to serve on the council while living outside the town. It is possible votes he cast during that time could eventually be invalidated if challenged, although at this point, an investigation seems unlikely.
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None of that means this should be forgotten. In retrospect, the way the council handled the situation reflects poorly on the town. The few residents who spoke out about Starnes and made valid points don't feel they were taken seriously. As the council's leader, Mayor Danny Funderburk would have done well to at least seek the advice of the ethics commission and collectively, the council should have blocked Starnes from voting on a resolution that was aimed solely at him. It also should have taken a second vote with the remaining six members present. The right thing for Starnes to do when he moved out of his home was to resign, just as former Councilwoman Guynn Savage did recently. And if he did that even now, it would help restore a measure of credibility.
We hope the next time the council is faced with an uncomfortable but serious dilemma, it handles the situation swiftly and completely by the book.