Opinion: Cayce City Council Needs to Lead By Example if It Wants Community to Heal

Posted 11/24/21

Cayce City Council made it two for two when it came to tumultuous November meetings with its session last week.Following a Nov. 9 meeting that featured a tense argument over whether to dismiss …

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Opinion: Cayce City Council Needs to Lead By Example if It Wants Community to Heal

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Cayce City Council made it two for two when it came to tumultuous November meetings with its session last week.

Following a Nov. 9 meeting that featured a tense argument over whether to dismiss now-former Cayce Historical Museum Commissioner Marion Hutson for alleged racist comments about Columbia mayoral candidates, the Nov. 17 session was, if anything, filled with with more discord

Mayor Elise Partin read another accusation of racist comments allegedly from Hutson into the public record. Hutson resigned his volunteer position the week before. This second allegation came from an anonymous citizen who emailed about a visit from Hutson in which he said that there were “too many colored people” in positions of responsibility in Cayce. After Partin read the email, the council voted unanimously to investigate the situation.

Beyond the new accusation, the Nov. 17 meeting included sparring among the council members on other matters.

At the start of the meeting, Councilman Phil Carter complained of being misled about the possibility of him being elected mayor pro tem — saying that Partin had promised him the position before Mayor Pro Tem James “Skip” Jenkins changed his mind about stepping down from the post. Partin and James disputed Carter’s version of their conversations. The exchange mirrored a moment from the previous session in which Carter said Partin had promised the motion to dismiss Hutson wouldn’t be put up for a vote if there wasn’t unanimous consensus, a claim that Partin also disputed. The vote was held, with council deciding 3-2 split not to dismiss Hutson.

In another exchange, Partin expressed a desire to ascertain whether newly-minted Councilman Hunter Sox illegally sent an email to a citizen about items discussed in executive session. 

Partin closed the session bemoaning the sniping that went back and forth in the press between council members after the Nov. 9 vote concerning Hutson, saying that nothing like this had happened since the city hired a public information officer a decade and a half ago. 

“We have a lot of healing to do,” she said.

But the council Cayce saw on Nov. 17 didn’t seem like one ready to heal or move forward.

With the original Hutson accusation, council, particularly Partin, emphasized that it came from a long-serving city employee who had the members’ absolute trust. What point is there in publicly disclosing another allegation, this time from a private citizen, when Hutson has already resigned?

Regardless of whether he was guilty, Hutson was forced out. Piling on with another accusation is of questionable value, especially when it came from a source that is less known to council.

And what does the council hope to glean from its investigation? Would corroborating the known accusations or digging up new ones really help the community heal?

At this point, such information would seem to be less a balm than salt in the wound.

What definitely isn’t helping the city move on and grow from this situation is council publicly fighting about who gets to be mayor pro tem. Or whether a novice council member violated the sanctity of his first executive session. Or who spoke to the press about what and whether it was part of the city’s approved PR strategy.

The council should now look toward building consensus rather than focusing on who is right and who is wrong. They should move forward rather than spend time examining the past.

If council wants Cayce to come together and heal, they need to take the lead — and lead by example.

This article is the opinion of the Chronicle editorial board. To comment, email lexingtonchronicle@gmail.com.

cayce city council, Mayor Elise Partin, cayce historical museum commission, racism accusation, marion hutson

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