Judge Paul M. Burch has issued his order which stems from the hearing on dirt hauling and county council members directing county employees. The hearing took place in May.
COUNTY OF DILLON
IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
Dillon County, a body politic and corporate, by and through its corporate, by and through its members of County Council: James Pee Wee Webster, Andrew Graves, Bobby Moody, Harold Moody, Archie Scott, Aaron Gandy and Macio Williamson and through its Administrator, David Mobley,
John Doe, a citizen of Dillon County,
This matter was instituted by the Plaintiff as a Declaratory Judgment Action to determine the validity of a County Policy dealing with E-911 roadways and seeking to determine if this Policy violates an Order issued by the Court in 1992 in Civil Action 91-CP-17-274. The Defendant filed an Answer and Counterclaim wherein the Defendant seeks to hold the Plaintiff in contempt of court violating the 1992 court Order and further seeking to enjoin Dillon County Council members from violating Section 4-9-660 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina. The Defendant abandoned the prayer for attorney fees and Mandamus.
Prior to the call of the case, the matter was discussed in Chambers with the Attorney for the Plaintiff and the Attorney for the Defendant both present. Both the Plaintiff and the Defendant have asked the Court to review the 2004 County Policy dealing with E-911 roads and driveways. Plaintiff’s Attorney stated that if the County’s E-911 Roadways Policy is found not to be in compliance with the law and with the 1992 Order, the County would consent to an Order of the Court holding Dillon County in contempt of Court for violation of the 1992 Order and would further consent to an injunction prohibiting Council members from violation Section 4-9-660 of the South Carolina Code. Defendants Attorney stated that Dillon County had violated the 1992 Order without regard to the ruling on the 2004 E-911 Policy. Since the Court finds that the 2004 E-911 Policy violates the Order of 1992 there is no need to determine if other violations exist. There was also a discussion concerning the maintenance of abandoned cemeteries by Dillon County. The Court is informed that Dillon County, pursuant to Code Section 6-1-35, has a policy that provides for the use of County equipment and personnel to preserve and protect such cemeteries. Council members vote in public session to place abandoned cemeteries on a list of cemeteries to be maintained by the County. The Court is informed that there are certain cemeteries on this list that are still active and presently are being used for the burial of bodies. The Court is also informed that there is some ambiguity in the Courts use of the term “emergency” in the 1992 Order. The Court will address these mattes in this Order. Based upon the information presented, the Court makes the following findings of fact:
1. That the Dillon County Policy regarding E-911 Roadways violates the Order Dated July 8, 1992.
2. That Dillon County has violated the Order of the Court dated July 8, 1992.
3. That the use of County equipment and personnel on cemeteries that are still used for the burial of bodies is improper.
4. That the term “emergency” as used in the Court’s Order of July 8, 1992, is intended to mean those emergencies that have been declared to be emergencies by some governmental entity such as the President or the Governor or some executive agency having the authority to declare emergencies.
5. That the Dillon County Council Members, or at least some of them, have violated Section 4-9-660 of the South Carolina Code of Laws in that they have given instruction to County employees. That this practice has continued over a long period of time and has lead to the practice of using County personnel and County equipment on private property.
Based upon the foregoing findings of fact, it is
1. That the County Policy dealing with E-911 Roadways violates the Order of the Court dated July 8, 1992 and is therefore void.
2. That Dillon County is held in Contempt of Court for violating the Order of the Court dated July 8, 1992. With the consent of the Defendant the Court will impose no punishment on any of the Plaintiffs for this violation. However the Court issues this stern warning that any further violation of the Order will lead to severe fines and perhaps jail time for those who are guilty of such violation.
3. That the Dillon County Council members are jointly and severally enjoined from dealing directly with county employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the Dillon County Administrator and they are Ordered to comply with Section 4-9-660 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. Council Members shall deal with County Employees only through the Administrator except for the purposes of inquires and investigations. These inquires and investigations must be approved by a majority of Council in advance of the inquiry or investigation. County employee personnel issues shall be handled through the County Administrator and in accordance with the County’s established personnel policies. Any violation of this Section 4-9-660 of the South Carolina Code of Laws and of this provision of this Order may lead to severe fine or jail time for those Council Members who violate this provision.
4. That the term “emergency” as used in the Order dated July 8, 1992, is intended to mean only those emergencies that have been so declared by the President of the United States, the Governor of South Carolina or by a public governmental entity or agency having the authority to declare emergencies.
5. That Dillon County is enjoined from using county personnel and county equipment for the preservation and protection of cemeteries until and unless said cemeteries have been abandoned. The Court notes that “abandon” as defined in Black’s Law Dictionary is defined as “To give up absolutely; to forsake entirely; to renounce utterly; to relinquish all connection with or concern in.” The Court finds that a cemetery that is still being used for burials or one which has been so used for a period of less than ten (10) years cannot be defined “abandoned.” Dillon County is therefore enjoined from using county personnel and or county equipment for the purpose of maintaining any cemetery which has been used for the burial of human bodies within the prior ten (10) year period.
6. The Court has issued an oral warning at the time this matter was presented. It is further ordered that a copy of the transcript of the hearing be attached to this Order for the purpose of expressing the Court’s disapproval of the actions of Dillon County and should be used by any future Judge who may hear a contempt charge.
7. That the Order of July 8, 1992 remains in full force and effect.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
Honorable Paul M. Burch
Circuit Judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit
Date: June 1, 2010
WE CONSENT: Daniel H. Shine, Attorney for Plaintiff/ Charles E. Curry, Attorney for Defendant