The Chester County Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve an ordinance that would give the county ability to make changes to departments and offices amid a battle for control of the 911 system.
Since November, the council has worked to transfer the county’s 911 system from Sheriff Alex Underwood to County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey, raising tensions and legal costs.
In a previous council vote, the 911 system was transferred to the sheriff’s office in 2009. In November, the council met behind closed doors to discuss transferring the system from the sheriff’s law enforcement complex on Dawson Drive back to its former location on Ella Street under the new management of the county supervisor.
The ordinance change became necessary after the council was advised that a previous law allowing the body to change the structure of county departments at will had been repealed in 2012. Council members had been citing the outdated ordinance as justification for the transfer of the system.
Councilman Alex Oliphant said the newly passed ordinance has no effect on the current feud between the council and the sheriff’s office over the 911 system, which is tied up in court. Oliphant called Monday’s vote a matter of “housekeeping.”
“It was more about posturing for lawyers,” he said of the law change, pointing out that the county government has ultimate authority to change the system’s location as it sees fit.
State laws prevent county supervisors from exerting control over elected officials in county offices, aside from setting organizational policies. Oliphant stressed that nothing in the ordinance gives the council rights to meddle with an elected official’s command structure.
Opposition to the change stems from fears that the ordinance may change power structures of the departments of elected officials.
The S.C. Association of Countywide Elected Executives claims in court filings that the ordinance is unconstitutional and would give county leaders authority over employees who work for elected officials holding county offices.
Oliphant said he was “tired” of the 911 battle and the “drama” it has caused among county departments. “It’s not good for business; it just gets need to go away.”