Sullivan’s Island Lawsuit Moving Forward

  • Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The lawsuit brought forward by three Sullivan’s Island residents against the town concerning Sullivan’s Island Elementary School will proceed into the courts. The lawsuit is very active and moving forward, spokesperson Barbara Spell said in a release to the Moultrie News.

A rebuilt Sullivan’s Island Elementary is scheduled to open the fall of 2014. The school, a $26.5 million project, will be 74,000 square feet. The lawsuit is seeking to accomplish a town vote on the school, because the size and design – about twice as big as the former building – have been controversial. A group against the proposed school obtained the necessary number of signatures on a petition for a referendum, but legal counsel representing the town, as well as outside counsel, determined the petition was defective.

Will and Kathleen Post and Martha Smith brought the suit.

Town council has publicly maintained that the petition was invalid.

Depositions of town officials are now being scheduled as part of the ongoing lawsuit for the right to a vote on the size and scope of Sullivan’s Island Elementary School. A trial is expected by the end of the year.

“At every turn, Sullivan’s Island Town Council has ignored and rebuffed the certified petition presented to council before they signed the lease related to the pristine beach front site for the school. The clearly stated goal of the petition was to require Sullivan’s Island Town Council to hold a referendum and allow residents to vote on the size and scope of the school,” Spell said.

“Elections are but one remedy for overturning what an elected body has done. The other available remedy is the petition/referendum process,” she added.

The group involved in the lawsuit maintain that if elected officials on Sullivan’s Island can use taxpayer money to fight and ignore state law — what would keep elected officials in other communities and other governing bodies from doing the same thing next time and ignoring the will of the people?

“For all citizens who follow the rule of law, the petitioning process offers a legal means by which any apparent ambiguous action by our elected officials can and should be called into question,” said Spell. “Our country prides itself on a system of checks and balances that must be honored and respected by our elected officials.”

In light of the court’s favorable ruling last March Spell said the group will continue to challenge the town’s insistence that their constituents are not entitled to a vote.

In a statement to the Moultrie News, Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke said that the town cannot comment on a matter which is currently in litigation.

He continued that, “However with regard to the Sullivan’s Island Elementary School, I can advise that the old building has been completely demolished, a general contractor has been awarded the construction contract, the new building foundation is complete and in place, building package steel is being delivered and construction crews are on site and working toward completion of the project. The town is excited about the August 2014 completion date and looks forward to the opening of the new facility.”

For more information on the March 8 court ruling in favor of the petitioners, including links to the legal documents filed, go to: http://www.sischoolvote.org/p/in-court-of-common-pleas.html

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