Preacher sworn in as Mayor of Norway, then resigns

In an unprecedented action, Ehrhardt Police Chief Jim Preacher was sworn in as Mayor of Norway, conducted a town council meeting as such and then resigned his position.

Before resigning, Preacher proceeded to introduce the newly sworn in council members to the Norway Book of Ordinances and reminded them that if they failed to uphold or follow an ordinance, they could be charged with a misdemeanor.

When Preacher asked Councilman Greg Covington questions concerning the firing of former police officers, Covington replied that since the Town is involved in a law suit concerning this, he felt that the Town Attorney should respond to Preacher’s questions.

Councilman Tommy Burbage agreed saying, “This happened before this Council came into being. I do think the citizens have a right to know the basic fundamentals of the suits, though.”

Preacher replied, “I understand your concern and these are things we are going to get to. The ordinance requires that every accused officer be allowed a hearing in front of all council members.”

Preacher then pointed out specific ordinances such as who is in charge of running the Town. Preacher said, “According to our Code, the mayor and the council run the Town together.”

The next ordinance that he addressed concerned borrowing money noting that in order to borrow money, the Town of Norway must hold a public hearing and have 2 readings.”

Preacher called on Norway police officer Chad Beard asking him under what conditions was he hired and Beard replied that he was told the specific conditions would be delineated on January 4, 2010. Preacher then informed Beard that he would be promoted to full-time with a salaried ($34,000 - $36,000) position and benefits and that his job title would be Chief of Police.

Preacher then introduced Detective Carter of the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Department. “Detective Carter and Chief Beard have been working collaboratively on a suspicious death in Norway. I am concerned when I have people calling me about other people carrying guns in town because they are afraid to walk our streets. There have been numerous break-ins and the suspects are still moving freely about Town. I want warrants served on them and I want it clear to everyone in Norway that we will have zero tolerance for drugs, stealing and violence in Norway. I want all Norway Police vehicles returned to Norway immediately.” Preacher continued, “We need to reinstate Town activities including the Christmas Parade and the yearly festival. Ms. Johnson, please call former mayor Rose Dukes and ask her help. I'm sure she will work with you. As I understand it, we have about $29,000 of grant money that we are going to lose if we don’t spend it soon. Our police force will also provide funeral escorts for our citizens. Providing funeral escorts for Norway citizens was unanimously adopted as a resolution.

Preacher then appointed Commissioners. Preacher said, “There are some things I want to clear up. First, I asked former mayor Brad Fogle to explain exactly why he fired me and he replied that he thought that I wanted to be mayor. I did not. I wanted to be Police Chief. In this administration, there will be no more Executive Sessions except to discuss personnel matters or contractual matters.” A resolution was adopted to enforce this idea.

Preacher also brought up lawsuits involving former town Police Officers Randall Day and Curtis Mizzell.

“I understand that the lawyers for Day have been paid out of the Water and Sewer grant we received.”

Town Clerk Mary Alice Mundy replied that she had been instructed to move some of the funds to the General Fund for this purpose and also to pay the salary of Jimmy Thomas (Wastewater operator). Preacher promised to get these monies straightened out. He said, Former officer Curtis Mizzell just wants to set the record straight. He wants the people of Norway to know that he did not abandon them and that he was fired by Mayor Fogle two weeks before he accepted the position in Eutawville.”

Preacher then resigned his position as Mayor. His resignation was accepted unanimously by Council and became effective immediately. A special election will have to be held to fill this position.