By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
The Isle of Palms City Council, which has been unwilling or unable to hire a fire chief since longtime Chief Ann Graham retired late last year, has decided to change the way department heads are chosen. At its regularly-scheduled meeting Aug. 24, the city’s governing body passed a second reading of an ordinance that gives City Administrator Desiree Fragoso the job of presenting candidates for department head positions to the Council, which then will vote on whether to accept the administrator’s recommendation. The Personnel Committee had been responsible for choosing department heads, with the approval of the full Council. The Personnel Committee will continue to serve as the hiring committee to fill the position of city administrator. The measure passed by an 8-1 vote, with Council Member Jimmy Ward voting no, though Council Member Kevin Popson also had some reservations about the ordinance. He said the administrator’s decision should go through the appropriate committee before being presented to the full Council. “Where’s the committee level in all of this? I’m struggling with why we wouldn’t go through a committee. I think the committee is getting left out,” Popson stated. Council members, including Popson but not Ward, eventually voted in favor of the ordinance after being assured that they would still have the final say on hiring department heads. Members also unanimously passed an ordinance allowing the Council to meet remotely “during states of emergency or in other exigent circumstances and to allow for City Council members to attend meetings by use of remote communication technology in certain situations that prevent their physical attendance, such as personal emergencies, illness or other exigent circumstances.” In addition, the Council agreed on a resolution encouraging people to wear face coverings in public indoor areas in an effort to slow the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19. In its original form, the resolution targeted only people who have not yet been vaccinated against the coronavirus, but the Council agreed with a suggestion from Council Member Rusty Streetman to ask everyone to mask up indoors. “The dynamics of our situation with the delta variant of COVID has changed,” Council Member Susan Hill Smith commented. “I would highly encourage wearing masks indoors and getting vaccinated for the sake of yourself and everyone around you and for the sake of our children so they can continue to go to school in person.” “We don’t have the legislative authority to mandate, but it’s responsible to encourage people to get their vaccinations,” Council Member Randy Bell added. During the part of the meeting reserved for public comments, the Council heard from Michael Fiem, co-owner of Tidal Wave Water Sports, which is currently operating at the Isle of Palms Marina despite the city’s contention that his lease has expired. Following a July 7 trial, Chief Magistrate Thomas E. Lynn ruled Aug. 6 that the city was within its rights to terminate its agreement with Tidal Wave. Since the company has already appealed the judge’s decision, the case is expected to end up in Circuit Court.
Fiem cautioned Council members that the situation in the Fire Department, with Police Chief Kevin Cornett currently supervising both departments, has the potential to deteriorate. “This got ugly, and I fear that with the Fire Department thing going on, it could get ugly as well,” he said.
“I’m going to try to give you all a little advice on what happened with us from my perspective. Had you all been open, honest, transparent and let us know what was going on, we wouldn’t be here. There was a lot of cloak and dagger. So I’m suggesting when you guys are dealing with the Fire Department, don’t make that same mistake.”
Contacted by The Island Eye News, Council Member Randy Bell, who serves as chair of the Public Safety Committee, chose not to comment concerning Fiem’s comments.