Mar 22 2012

Sullivan’s Island Abandons Lawsuit

By Barbara Spell

During the Sullivan’s Island Town Council meeting on Tuesday, March 20, the Council voted to abandon the lawsuit against Islanders for a Smaller School, et al. regarding their petition for a referendum to be able to vote on the size of the potential new elementary school on Sullivan’s Island.

During their February meeting, the Sullivan’s Island Town Council requested that a judge rule on the referendum “in the interest of fairness and clarity, so that all parties have an opportunity to present their views, and to assure full participation and an open and impartial process,” according to a press release provided by Councilmember Jerry Kaynard on February 16.

By the close of business on Friday, March 9, five Sullivan’s Island residents had delivered letters to Town Hall agreeing to accept service in the lawsuit, stating that they would be representing themselves in a court of law.

In spite of the vote, the certified petition is still a legally valid petition. Under South Carolina law, the Town does not have to undertake the referendum for a year after the filing of the petition, but a suit can be brought if a referendum is not held within the appropriate time frame.

1 comment

    • barbara spell on March 23, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    So what happened at the Sullivan’s Island Town Council meeting Tuesday night? In a nutshell:

    –SULLIVAN’S ISLAND TOWN COUNCIL SAID RESIDENTS CANNOT REPRESENT THEMSELVES IN LAWSUIT AGAINST CITIZENS
    –SITC VOTED TO ABANDON THE LAWSUIT AGAINST ITS CITIZENS
    –IN SPITE OF THE VOTE BY SITC, THE PETITION FOR REFERENDUM IS STILL LEGALLY VALID
    –UNDER SC LAW, SITC HAS UP TO ONE YEAR AFTER A PETITION IS FILED TO HOLD A REFERENDUM
    –A SUIT CAN BE FILED AGAINST THE TOWN IF THE REFERENDUM IS NOT HELD WITHIN THE ESTABLISHED TIME FRAME
    –SUPPORTERS OF A MORE APPROPRIATELY-SIZED SCHOOL ON SULLIVAN’S ISLAND TURNED OUT STRONGLY AT THE TOWN COUNCIL MEETING
    –SMALLER SCHOOL SUPPORTERS WERE ELOQUENT, INFORMED AND FACTUAL IN THEIR COMMENTS AT THE MEETING

    What a difference a month makes! Sullivan’s Island Town Council announced the filing of its lawsuit against Sullivan’s Island citizens in a February 16 press release posted on the Island Eye Facebook page. Way back then, Town Council wanted a judge to rule on the referendum, “in the interest of fairness and clarity, so that all parties have an opportunity to present their views, and to assure full participation and an open and impartial process.” By the close of business on Friday, March 9, five SI residents had delivered letters to Town Hall agreeing to accept service in the lawsuit, stating that they would be representing themselves in a court of law. That was not acceptable to Sullivan’s Island Town Council.

    Tuesday night, Sullivan’s Island Town Council voted to abandon the lawsuit against its citizens, even with the letters from five Island residents agreeing to accept service. As one resident stated in his letter accepting service, “I don’t feel I should have to pay an attorney while my own tax dollars are paying for opposing counsel.”

    Sullivan’s Island Town Council has chosen to spend over $8,000 (and counting!) of taxpayer money to sue its citizens for exercising their constitutional right to petition their government. Petitioners want to be able to vote on the size of the elementary school that Charleston County School District wants to build on land owned by the Town of Sullivan’s Island.

    In spite of the vote Tuesday, the certified petition is still a legally valid petition. The petition was certified by the Charleston County Board of Elections on October 18th, before the lease with the Charleston County School District was ratified. Under the South Carolina petition/referendum law, the Town doesn’t have to undertake the referendum for a year after the filing of the petition, but a suit can be brought if a referendum is not held within the appropriate time frame.

    The most straight-forward thing for the Town to do is undertake the referendum, since that offers a much a much quicker way to get clarity. If the Town refuses to hold the referendum, petitioners can then sue to have the Town perform its legal duty.

    Those in support of a smaller school turned out very strongly at the Town Council meeting Tuesday night and spoke out against the plan by CCSD to build an expensive, out-of-proportion, out-of-context school on the ocean front on Sullivan’s Island.

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