Aiken County Council Approves Referendum OrdinanceForm of government change to be decided by voters
AIKEN, SC — During a brief meeting of the county council on June 5th, a proposed ordinance for a referendum passed its third and final reading. The approved measure calls for a referendum on changing the form of Aiken County government from Council/Administrator to Council/Manager. This change would alter the positions of treasurer and auditor from elected offices to hired positions under the management of the council and county manager.
During previous readings of the proposal, Council member Singer expressed support for the measure, stating the change would allow for increased accountability. According to Singer, he regularly receives complaints regarding the offices, but the council is unable to act or make changes under the current form of county government. In support of the change, Singer also pointed to the fact that Treasurer and Auditor are positions which require a certain level of qualification and that the positions should go to the most qualified candidates rather than the most politically popular. Favorable remarks have also been made by council members Bunker, Hightower, Haskel, and McKenzie. Bunker previously opined that the county could no longer rely on the good will of elected department heads, and that he no longer sees a practical benefit of the current separation of authority.
Support for the measure was not universal, with council member Rawls speaking in opposition. Rawls stated that it was not appropriate for the council or county administrator to be over the funding of public schools, Aiken Technical College, and USC Aiken. Rawls also added the issue would be more appropriate in a year when the positions of treasurer and auditor were not on the ballot themselves. During the previous readings, Rawls has gone on the record as stating it was important to maintain the separation of powers afforded by the Council/Administrator form that the county now uses and that she believes the voting public is intelligent enough to select the best candidate. The ordinance finally passed 6-3 with Rawls, Barton and Chairman Young in opposition.
Following the ordinances passage, the matter will be sent to the ballot to be decided on by Aiken County voters.