In the wake of a Christmas Eve shooting that left a Bluffton man dead and a tow truck driver facing manslaughter charges, Edgefield residents voted in an election Tuesday to oust homeowners association board president John Mack and safety and security director Ed Snyder.
The vote at the packed, residents-only meeting came after some community members said the association did not communicate effectively in the days following the shooting death of Carlos Olivera, who was allegedly slain by Pro Tow driver Preston Oates after a parking dispute.
James Haberberger and Douglas Fernung were elected to the association's board.
Both vowed to improve communications with residents during their three-year terms. Both Mack and Snyder were up for re-election Tuesday.
According to one homeowner at the meeting, who asked not to be identified, Charleston attorney Andrew Halio, whom the association hired to handle possible lawsuits, said he advised board members not to comment on the shooting to media or to residents.
But Fernung said residents should have been told the reason for that lack of comment.
"I ran with my main concern being the lack of communication over the incident," he said after the meeting.
Haberberger, who has been leading the effort to organize a neighborhood watch program, said the key will be bringing the community back together by answering all questions and concerns.
"Some of us have been meeting since the tragedy to see what we can do to make a change for the positive," he said.
NEW TOWING QUESTIONS
In another development, residents are looking for answers about a newly hired towing company that will enforce the neighborhood's parking rules.
Resident Catherine Daugherty said Monday that the home owners' association has hired a new property management company -- Coastal Community Association Management LLC -- to replace IMC Resort Services Inc.
According to an e-mail written to Daugherty by Coastal Community owner Pat Hancock, the company has hired Morris Garage & Towing, of 1173 May River Road, to replace Pro Tow as the community's wrecker service.
In early 2009, Morris had the towing contract in Edgefield, but the home owners' association board of directors switched to Pro Tow in mid-year after an Aug. 17, 2009, incident in which a driver allegedly pulled a pistol on Daugherty on Live Oak Walk, Snyder has said. The truck operator was charged with felony pointing and presenting a firearm, but the charge was later dismissed and expunged from his record, according to court records.
That confrontation took place across the street from where Olivera was killed.
Daugherty said she and other residents were concerned that the association had re-hired the company.
Morris owner Jeffrey Robinowich said Tuesday that Coastal Community contacted Morris about the new towing contract. He said he told company officials he would not be interested unless new procedures were in place. The two companies came up with the towing policy together, he said.
Coastal Community owner Hancock could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
NEW TOWING REGULATIONS
Edgefield's new towing contract with Morris prohibits wrecker employees from carrying weapons, Robinowich said
It requires the towing company obtain criminal background checks on all personnel, he said.
Towing employees will not roam the neighborhood in search of violators, he said.
Instead, a Hilton Head Island-based security company -- Coastal Security & Investigative Services, Inc. -- will notify wrecker drivers of violators, according to Robinowich.
Street parking in Edgefield is not permitted, according to signs posted in the neighborhood.
Robinowich said the security company will warn vehicle owners prior to calling Morris by placing a sticker on the vehicle. If the warnings are not heeded, security officers will notify the wrecker service.
"We're not making the decision to tow," Robinowich said. "The security company will make the call."
Officers will then stay with the car until it is towed to insure the safety of everyone involved. If a resident steps in during the process, the security officer will handle the complaint, he said.
"It was a very volatile situation there and a terrible, terrible tragedy," Robinowich said of the Christmas Eve shooting. "I don't want my drivers or local residents in any kind of danger."