DENMARK – Loud discussions in the public meeting and shouts heard across the galley from the closed-door executive session chamber were made when the matter of Denmark Police Chief Leroy Grimes’ retirement and return and the handling of it were brought up during the Denmark City Council meeting Monday evening.
Last month, Grimes was publically announced as retiring and then returning which is something state employees can do legally. However, Councilwoman Hope Long Weldon, in that meeting and the meeting Monday night, stated that she did not agree with the way Grimes’ retirement and return was handled. City Administrator Heyward Robinson said that after Grimes’ 30 days of retirement that Grimes returned as a full-time employee Aug. 12.
Weldon stated the work session to select candidates for the position vacated by Grimes was left out of the minutes.
“We were supposed to meet on July 26 to go into executive session to discuss the matter with the chief,” she added.
Weldon said that this was after the recent Municipal Association of South Carolina meeting in Hilton Head.
Weldon repeated what she said in the July meeting, that the council did not know about the chief going into retirement and even potentially coming back before it was announced in the last meeting.
“Are we two people doing the business of the city or two people shooting the breeze?” Weldon asked rhetorically during part of her discussion.
Mayor Gerald Wright said, “At no time has there been any effort to keep the council unaware of city business.”
The mayor and Weldon’s discussion grew increasingly louder at times during the meeting.
“We have a form of city government that operates in a certain manner. When we met last time, we had a discussion (about this matter). We had an executive session (last time) because personnel matters require one,” Wright said.
Wright added, “The implication that we are doing things we are not supposed to do is off base.”
Weldon, who has stated during the last meeting that as she, has the police committee chair, should have been informed about Grimes, exclaimed, “I do not have the police committee role just to have it!”
“If you knew Chief Grimes was retiring, why didn’t you tell the whole council?!” Weldon asked.
She also stated, “We have not had a work session this year.” J
ust the past few meetings of Denmark Council have been held live. Most of the year, because of COVID-19, the meetings were held via teleconference. Whether that affected the work session meetings or not was not stated.
Weldon added, “We have had from the July meeting until now to have an executive session to discuss the chief.”
After all of this discussion, Wright asked for a motion to amend the agenda to add an executive session to discuss a personnel matter. A motion was made and seconded.
“We will have an executive session following the other matters,” he stated.
Shouting could be heard from voices of several different registers, low and high, from the executive session chambers once council moved to there, and council met a little less than an hour in the session.
Upon return to open session, no motions or decisions were announced, and no further discussion was held.
Robinson said during an earlier public part of the meeting that Grimes plans to work for the next four years as chief of police.
Grimes was not present at the council meeting, and, earlier in the public session, Weldon asked why Robinson was reading the police department report in Grimes’ absence. Robinson stated Grimes had been in retirement during the time the report was written by his officers, so he, Robinson, was reading it for this reason and as Grimes was absent anyway. Eighteen new cases were mentioned in the report, and, unlike in previous months, no shootings were listed. The Denmark Police Department, according to the report, has hired three new officers, Robert Merkle, Christopher Coleman and Curtis Johnson III. Also announced in the report was criminal domestic violence court to be held on Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. at the Bamberg County Courthouse and that Municipal Judge James A. Spellman held municipal court on Aug. 17.
Spellman attended the council meeting as requested by Weldon. The agenda was amended to include presentation by the judge on issues regarding an individual with mental health conditions who keeps becoming a nuisance in the city and has been on the docket for the court system numerous times.
“I was asked to share from a court perspective what we can do with a nuisance situation in the city,” Spellman said.
Spellman mentioned going to school in the city, having property there, and being very concerned, as others have noted, with an individual with mental health conditions who keeps lying down in the street and throwing trash on himself.
“D.S.S. has a category of a vulnerable adult. This person has a payee (and is allegedly under this category),” Spellman added.
He said he recently contacted the court administration regarding the issue and that the court cannot do any more with the individual legally than what they have already done.
“Some of the larger municipalities have a homeless court. We do not have that … However, there is a mental health crisis hotline,” Spellman added.
He said that the way the situation will have to be handled is that when citizens see the aforementioned individual having mental health issues, they will need to call the crisis hotline and give details to them at 833-364-2274.
• Laura McKenzie of Be Bamberg asked the city and citizens for help with a countywide litter cleanup on Saturday, Oct. 23 from 8 a.m.-noon. She is seeking help from churches, schools, colleges and citizens in general with the cleanup. Contact Denmark City Hall for more details.
• Wright said they should probably start planning for next year’s Dogwood Festival, assuming that things may be back to normal, and that they could always cancel if necessary.
• Councilman Calvin Odom thanked the Public Works Department for its help in getting many 300 pound bags of soil dispersed. He, however, stated that he did have to talk to one member of Public Works about keeping a door open to an air conditioned tractor and having an accident with it, causing damage to the door. Odom stated, though he appreciates what they do, that the Public Works Department needs to be talked to about damages to equipment which are costing the City of Denmark money. Odom also stated he had discussed with the city several times about the new city hall grounds and parks and more not having a well-manicured appearance. Wright had stated earlier that he wanted the areas around Denmark to be as well-manicured as, for example, the courthouse area in Bamberg. Mayor Pro Tem James Bookard asked what had happened with some of the benches in the parks, and Robinson said that some of the wood in them had rotted out. No motions or decisions were made about these issues, but city officials will be in discussions with Public Works regarding them.