The Police and Fire Departments are split
By a 5-2 vote this morning (Aug. 22), the Clinton City Council has decided to end its Public Safety Department, effective immediately.
Council was told there will be a transition period of 6 months to 1 year before the two fully functioning separate departments are formed. Council was told the members will see a plan and report on progress - along with any recommended changes to the city budget - sometime within that window.
Clinton has had a Department of Public Safety for 13 years. There are 9 public entities in South Carolina that have Public Safety Departments (according to the Post & Courier) and Charleston is exploring the possibility of combining Police, Fire and First Response into a Public Safety Department. Clinton City Manager Bill Ed Cannon recommended to council that Public Safety be disbanded, based on his research in Corbin, Kentucky.
Council members Danny Cook and Shirley Jenkins voted "no" - they said they do not have enough information at this time to make a "yes" vote. Mayor Bob McLean, and members Ronnie Roth, Gary Kuykendall and Robbie Neal voted "yes". McLean said when the city council hired Cannon as the city manager, separate Police and Fire is something Cannon said he would do. Yet, he did not bring it up Aug. 6 in his State of the City address, as a council regular meeting. Council unanimously adopted an ordinance to dissolved Public Safety at a called, evening meeting Aug. 9. Eight working days later came the 2nd and final vote on the ordinance (Aug. 22, when Cook and Jenkins voted "no"). The next regular meeting of the Clinton City Council is Sept. 10 (normally the 1st Monday, but that will be Labor Day).
City Attorney Allen Wham and advising attorney Lawrence Flynn, of the Pope Flynn Group, Columbia, said all legal requirements were followed as the council conducted two called meeting and approved the ordinance. There was no Public Hearing conducted on this ordinance.
Council offered the chance before the vote for citizens to address council. Speaking were Jerry Harris, Scottie Peay, Jerry Campbell, Dawn Ardelt and Susan Galloway. Cannon made a report that indicated there is a written report on fire certifications by Phillip Russell, the retired director of the SC Fire Academy - that report has not yet been made a public document.
Council member Roth said that report is generally positive about the Clinton Department of Public Safety, but there are enough concerns to warrant having a separate Police Department and Fire Department.
McLean said he was personally offended by Harris' assertion that the mayor wants to change Clinton to a "strong-mayor" form of government, from what it has now, a "council-manager" form of government. McLean and Harris had a private discussion after the council special called meeting to enact the Police-Fire split ordinance.