In the wake of the firing of two employees – allegedly for removing “defamatory” comments from the minutes of its last meeting – the Chester County Council will hold an emergency meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Council members requested the special meeting after County Supervisor Shane Stuart fired clerk to council Carolyn Clayton and county information technology consultant Eddie Buchanan Tuesday and had them escorted from the county administration building by sheriff’s deputies.
The council is expected to go into executive session, according to the meeting’s agenda, so the public will not be able to hear the discussion of a “personnel issue.” The agenda also includes an item titled “council comments” after the closed session.
Some council members have questioned who has the authority to fire the clerk to council.
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Stuart told sheriff’s deputies Clayton and Buchanan had tried to change the council minutes from the last meeting. It is a misdemeanor to alter or destroy public records.
Clayton told The Herald she inadvertently left a recording device running during an April 20 executive session, and it captured her saying the county attorney and county physician positions should be filled by a public bidding process like other positions. She said she sought to have her comments taken out of the final record.
Buchanan said he did what Clayton asked him to do, but he did not know it was possibly a crime.
The Sheriff’s Office is trying to determine if the original recording remains intact and what comments were made on the altered tape, Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse said.
State law requires minutes and/or taping of public meetings to ensure public access and accountability, but does not require taping or minutes of executive sessions behind closed doors, said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association.
Thursday’s meeting also comes a week after Chester County school officials’ decision to hire security guards to replace four sheriff’s deputies working as school resource officers. The county and school district split the cost of the four deputies, and school officials now want the $101,000 that the county paid for the deputies to be used for the private security.
That could mean the Sheriff’s Office will lose four positions at a time when Sheriff Alex Underwood has been asking the County Council to hire more deputies to help battle rising gang activity that he blames for the November shooting death of Chester City Councilman Odell Williams and other violence across the county.
The council has multiple budget workshops scheduled, including one at 4 p.m. Monday, when Underwood is again expected to ask for more manpower. The council’s next regular meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065
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The Chester County Council will meet in a special session at 8 a.m. Thursday at the county administration building, 1476 J.A. Cochran Bypass, Chester. The meeting is open to the public, but the council is expected to go into closed session for much of the meeting before making comments afterward.