Charlie Barrineau, the field services manager at the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC), handed out materials together with guidance to Andrews new town council members, Jamie Altman, Amy Pinckney-Flagler and Robert S. Stamper II during the Town Council Workshop on January 13.
“This is very informal and an opportunity for you to have an open dialogue and see how we can do things better,” he said.
Barrineau gave a little bit about his background which included most recently as the city manager in Greenwood for 9 years.
“The key to everything we’re talking about tonight is really respect. If you respect each other you will not have any problem,” he said. “If you learn that you are not always going to agree, and you learn to disagree politely and fairly, everything will be fine. And so that is what I like to tell folks. When we see councils that are dysfunctional and don’t get along and don’t get things done, it is because they don’t respect each other. If you learn anything tonight, respecting each other is the key.”
He talked about how the Municipal Association (MASC) is a non-profit that works to assist all the 271 cities and towns in the state. One of the programs that is important to you I think, first and foremost, is money, he said.
“Many years ago, the towns collected various business license taxes and it got to be cumbersome as some were collecting and some were not, there were different rates and so state wide laws have been put into place for things like insurance taxes, telephone and telecommunication taxes,” Barrineau said. “We also collect what we call a broker’s tax on your behalf. So, this past year we remitted $450,000 to you so know they we collect on behalf of all the municipalities and we think we do a good job.”
He also pointed out MASC hires lawyers and goes after companies when they don’t pay. “We take them to court and do a good job of geo-coding those payments to ensure that we know where the payments are coming from so that it’s not Hemingway but Andrews,” he said. “We also do advocacy and communications; advocacy is a big word for lobbying, we lobby at the state house on your behalf. We keep up with legislation at the state and federal level that would be detrimental to you and all cities and towns in the state. “
He also called attention to handling insurance services which MASC learned, “if pooled our services together and provided insurance, we could give that cheaper than you could get in the private sector.” He said Andrews gets its workers compensation insurance through their association. “We also offer general liability insurance and that’s the acronym SMURF that’s the South Carolina Risk Management Fund and we offer education, technical and training systems so I am here tonight, so that’s the education,” he said.
“A number of you have gone through our municipal elected officials institute,” he said. “So those of you that are new that is coming up in February, I believe it is February 5, I would encourage you to go through the program and get that understanding and training.”
He also said some of the materials MASC puts out includes a monthly newsletter/magazine; a number of emails that go out during the week and daily news which is news from across the state that goes out on Wednesday and on Friday MASC sends out a legislative update.
“If you’re not getting emails from us, that means you’re probably haven’t signed up for them,” he said. “If you are in our system, go online, sign up for the emails. We also have podcasts that come out, about one or two a week, adding that today’s podcast was about forms of government. We also have a legislative tracking system on our website that tracks legislation at the state house, whether it’s good, bad and the like.”
In about 2-3 weeks, MASC will host Hotel Legislative Action Day, for those of you who are new. “We bring you to Columbia and talk about legislative issues. This year the big focus will be on the business license bill that is proposed in the house, House Bill 4431,” Barrineau said. “For those of you who are new we also offer a one day newly elected official orientation in Columbia. “It’s Wednesday, March 4 and basically what you are going to get is what I am telling you today but spread out a bit longer over a whole day,” he said.
According to Barrineau, it is a great way to meet other new officials and to start networking with other elected officials. “We encourage you to do that,” he said.
He also explained that there are three forms of government in the state and that Andrews form of government is the mayor-council form of government. “There is the mayor-council form, the largest used with 140 of our 271 have this form of government; the next is the council form of government and the least used is the council-manager form of government,” he said.
He said he is often asked which form is better or which one should be used. “And I will tell you they all work fine. One of MASC’s lobbyists describes them as “like a Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet,” he said.
“They all run well but it depends on who gets in that seat and who is involved in working the vehicle as to how well it drives or doesn’t drive,” Barrineau said. “So, keep that in mind. The mayor-council form of government, in football terms, the council as a whole are the coaches and under that form, the quarter back really is the mayor. You are setting the policy and sending the plays into the mayor to execute but it’s the mayor’s role, good mayors realize that they have to communicate back to the council and there is a back and forth.”
He also pointed out how important it is to stay in your lane. “It’s important that council members, administrators and mayors stay in their lanes. When you shift out of your lane, that’s when things may occur.”
He also made it clear that the council members make policy and approve the budget that is submitted by the mayor. “You elect the mayor protem; the majority of council can call special meetings; council appoints the city attorney, city judge and the municipal clerk and council members appoint an administrator to assist the mayor. The day to day operations are to be carried out by the mayor. State law says the mayor presides over the meetings and the mayor acts and votes just like a council member. The mayor has a tough role, he said, as the hiring and the firing are big challenges.”
In addition, Barrineau emphasized council members should be aware of the agenda and be prepared before the meeting; arriving on time is important as well as the dates and times members have to be there. Body language and no finger pointing are also very important and members are equal on all votes amending an agenda. “Keep in mind that this is really a business meeting and that you want it to flow and be professional so the state statue says you need to adopt rules of procedure and order for your meeting,” he said.
“It all goes back to respect, when someone is talking don’t interrupt; when the mayor is the chair of the meeting and you need to get the floor from the mayor,” he said. “Respect that everybody’s voice needs to be heard these are the things I’d point out.”
According to Barrineau, it is also very important that a town be on social media as your citizens are on social media and you can learn about the needs of the town. “However, there is a lot of misinformation on social media,” he said.
“If you didn’t know this, you are a public official now people will look to what you post and reflect that on the town, so if you post religious comments or political comments, which you have a right to do that, just understand that now that reflects on the town,” he said. “And that creates the dysfunction of many of our councils. I see council members calling other council members names on social media, for example, those are the things that cause dysfunction and you won’t get stuff done.”
Barrineau passed out his business card and invited town council members to call, text or email him any time.