By forgoing a formal hearing, the town of Port Royal employee who admitted he "lacks the professional competence" to issue building permits and certificates of occupancy ended S.C. State Building Codes Council proceedings.
But the matter shouldn't end there.
Port Royal must address questions about the safety of other buildings approved by building codes inspector Daniel Lemieux.The town must also give a better explanation for Lemieux's reassignment -- to duties that include enforcing the town's safety protocol, no less.
It was Lemieux's failure to adequately perform his duties that endangered Donald Witfield, who fell 22 feet after a third-floor balcony attached to the Jefferson Commons home he was renting collapsed under him in 2008.
The Building Codes Council determined Lemieux:
Additionally, a forensic engineering report conducted after the collapse revealed other building-code deficiencies "that should have readily been apparent."
These additional findings, along with Lemieux's decision not to challenge them, raise concerns that the collapse of the Jefferson Commons balcony might not be an isolated incident.
As such, simply changing Lemieux's job title is an insufficient response. Town manager Van Willis says the "institutional knowledge" Lemieux has accrued in 40 years as a town employee is reason to keep him aboard. However, the State Building Codes Council's findings suggest his "institutional knowledge" has not served the people of Port Royal all that well.
At a minimum, there should be an audit of other buildings Lemieux has approved and a review of the town's inspection and permitting process.
If the balcony collapse was an isolated incident, perhaps Port Royal can find something useful for Lemieux to do. But if problems are more widespread, he and the town should part company. And if others have been remiss, they should leave, too.
These inquiries also should take place whether the town ultimately farms out code enforcement to Beaufort County, as Willis has indicated it might.
This is about correcting any other dangerous mistakes that have escaped detection. It also is about making a statement to town employees in all departments that they will be held to high standards.