Jasper County Council to remain at five members

cconley@islandpacket.comJuly 24, 2012 

A proposal to expand Jasper County Council from five to seven members won't come before voters this fall.

The plan died Monday when only two council members attended a special meeting that would have included a second preliminary vote on the issue, Chairman Samuel Gregory said Tuesday. Three members are needed to conduct business.

The proposal would have asked voters if they wanted to elect council members at-large or by districts. It would have contained a second question asking voters if they wanted to expand council from five to seven members.

That plan's failure does not affect a separate referendum already approved by council that is expected to appear on the November ballot, county manager Andrew Fulghum said. That question will ask voters only if they want to continue electing council members at-large or if they want to elect them by districts.

Jasper County is one of the last counties in South Carolina that elects all council members at-large, he said.

Gregory, who supported the expansion, said the absent council members "boycotted" the meeting to quash the proposal.

"I think if you are for something, you are for it. If you are against it, you are against it," he said. "I think they should have showed up at the meeting."

Councilmen Martin Sauls, LeRoy Blackshear and Henry Etheridge did not attend Monday's meeting, scheduled for 11 a.m. Also on the agenda was a discussion of a proposed mutual-aid agreement between the Jasper County and Spartanburg County sheriff's offices.

Etheridge declined to comment when reached by phone. Attempts Tuesday to reach Sauls were unsuccessful.

Blackshear said a last-minute emergency prevented him from attending and that he would not have supported the proposal anyway.

"As I see it, it doesn't really make a difference. If you have five single-member districts, you still have three predominantly black districts and two white," Blackshear said. "If you have seven single-member districts, you have four predominantly black districts and three white. The equation works out same way, you just have more confusion if you have seven people."

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