Beaufort County Council chairman resigns

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Rodman’s resignation comes after council members call for immediate action

 

By MINDY LUCAS

Beaufort County Council Chair Stu Rodman abruptly resigned as chair at the end of the county’s regular meeting held Monday, March 9, but not before a contentious discussion was held in which calls for his immediate resignation were voiced by several council members.

Rodman had come under fire in recent months after it was reported in local media that he had used his personal email to discuss county business such as a controversial roads project on Hilton Head Island.

Those emails showed he had attempted to steer the project by side-stepping the County Administrator Ashley Jacobs by contacting the county’s Director of Construction, Engineering & Facilities privately through his personal email. He then denied those emails existed after a resident filed a request using the Freedom of Information Act, but a later request of other council members emails showed
their existence.

Council members also voiced concerns at Monday night’s meeting over Rodman’s treatment of Jacobs and other county employees, took issue with the way in which Rodman attempted to limit public comment and asserted that he had disregarded parliamentary procedure or had used council agendas in way that benefited him.

“The temperature at the administration building is horrible right now,” said Councilman Mike Covert, one of Rodman’s strongest critics in recent months.

At February’s meeting Covert said he had received countless anonymous letters and phone calls on the chairman’s harassment of the county administrator, county employees, vendors and other members of political bodies as well as his “strong arming” of meetings and agendas for his own purposes.

“This county is in such a bad spot right now,” Covert said Monday night. “We’ve asked you to resign and let’s move on.”

Rodman, who began the meeting seemingly resigned to allow for an election of a new chair, initially proposed that a series of meetings be conducted by councilman Larry McElynn in which McElynn would interview each council member and the county’s administrator to “identify if there are any people who feel that I’ve done something unprofessional, or that is detrimental to the county in anyway,” he said.

“Because people have been critical of me, I’m entitled to have the opportunity to confront my accusers,” he added.

He then proposed that an election be held after those interviews in two weeks. But that proposal received immediate pushback from council members.

As he did in February, Covert once again attempted to make a motion to amend the council’s rules and procedures as it relates to the chairman’s removal. Rodman then overruled the motion, stating that since it was an “off-agenda item” it was out of order. The embattled chairman then attempted to adjourn the meeting.

However, Councilman Brian Flewelling, the council’s parliamentarian, advised the chairman that parliamentary procedure dictated that the matter be allowed. A vote to overturn or sustain the decision of the chair was held and the decision to allow the motion passed 7 to 4.

A lengthy discussion followed, at which point several council members argued not to change the rules but rather that the chairman go ahead and resign.

“There is a path forward that I think should be taken,” said Councilman Joe Passiment who called the discussion “troublesome” before asking that Rodman go ahead and vacate the chairmanship.

“So I’m going to ask you to do us a favor and do it that way because I think it would be in the best interest of everyone,” he said.

Councilman Chris Hervochon who voted for the chairman’s objection to be overturned also called for immediate action.

“Where we are right now, I think we need immediate certainty for the public, I think we need immediate certainty for this council, and I think we need immediate certainty for the administration,” he said.

However, Rodman continued to argue that he was entitled to hear “from his accusers” and asked that members bring forward specific grievances.

Hervochon stated that he had brought his concerns to the chairman the day before by phone and asked him to resign. He also mentioned that in addition to his concerns, Councilman York Glover had outlined his in an email to the chairman, and yet no action was taken to address those.

“It really has to do with protecting this county as it moves forward and the best way to do that is to make sure the integrity is there, the honesty is there, transparency is there,” Glover then stated. “We can move this county forward but it’s going to take everybody working together and not dividing us as a community.”

Rodman then called for a 5-minute break after which he announced his immediate resignation. The move automatically made Vice Chairman Paul Sommerville temporary chair.

Following procedure, Sommerville then called for nominations for a new chair. The council voted unanimously to elect Joe Passiment chairman.

 

 

 

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