Thursday, June 30, 2022

Prepare for the 2022 Annual Meeting

The Municipal Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting is happening this July 14 – 17 in Charleston, tackling major issues like law enforcement practices, civil communication as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. Attendees can review the meeting agenda and session previews to help them decide which of the concurrent sessions they want to attend. 

Session previews 

On a recent podcast, Municipal Association Executive Director Todd Glover and Chief Operating Officer Jake Broom discussed many of the sessions happening at the Annual meeting, focusing on key themes like economic development and civility in government. 

The Association’s board of directors included civility as a top priority in its strategic plan last year, and the topic has informed the meetings and resources the Association has offered since then. Matt Lehrman, who spoke at Hometown Legislative Action Day, will return for the Annual Meeting to discuss how elected officials can facilitate the difficult public conversations that defuse conflict. Learn more about Lehrman’s message in this article and this podcast. Civility will also be on the agenda in the session on “Verbal Judo,” a skill involved in effective persuasion and conflict resolution. The Uptown article that describes that session also covers a concurrent session on what municipal councils need to know about the status of law enforcement reform. Another article highlights municipal initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Business license standardization remains a critical topic since the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act went into effect this year. During one of the Annual Meeting’s concurrent sessions, the Association’s Manager for Local Revenue Services Caitlin Cothran will explain five key questions that officials should ask their business licensing staff to ensure their city or town is complying with the law. 

Download the Municipal Association app 

The Municipal Association’s recently launched app isn’t just for events, but it does offer plenty of event information for the Annual Meeting. Attendees can use the app to plan which of the various concurrent sessions they want to attend through the meeting agenda. 

The app also gives users information on speakers and exhibitors. Beyond the Annual Meeting, it offers access to resources like the Association’s training calendar, municipal directory, staff listing and job openings. Download the app from either the App Store or Google Play by searching for “Municipal Association of SC.” Association staff will be available at the Annual Meeting to assist with the app.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Learn More About the City Connect Market

In 2021, the Municipal Association launched the City Connect Market, a cooperative purchasing partnership with HGACBuy that allows South Carolina cities and towns to take advantage of volume discounts for many of their purchases — anything from fire trucks to body cameras and temporary staffing. This summer, the Association is offering multiple opportunities for municipalities to learn more about the service, both through a virtual orientation event and through short sessions at the Annual Meeting

HGACBuy is a decades-old program that began with the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Texas. Today, its staff receives bids and assists local governments across the nation with purchasing. In addition to improving pricing through volume purchases, the program improves efficiency by eliminating the need for each municipality to handle all details of the competitive bid process. The program helps with purchasing in 41 major categories of products as well as with services offered by more than 800 contractors. The Municipal Association’s Chief Operating Officer Jake Broom previously appeared on the Association’s podcast to explain the program in detail

Virtual session 

The summer’s first City Connect Market event will be the virtual session coming next Wednesday, June 22 at 11 a.m., providing participants with an opportunity to hear directly from vendors. 

The session will feature two breakouts as well. One will cover fire service apparatus, emergency preparedness and safety equipment, as well as temporary and direct-hire staffing. The other will address law enforcement speed detection and video equipment; video surveillance, access control and security fencing systems; and hazard consulting and recovery services. 

“Buying Made Simple” sessions at the Annual Meeting

HGACBuy officials and vendors will also present at the Association’s Annual Meeting in Charleston. They will host brief sessions explaining many of the available contracts, including 
  • ambulance, EMS and special service vehicles; 
  • emergency medical and rescue equipment;
  • marketing, public relations and event planning services;
  • parks and recreation equipment; 
  • street maintenance equipment; and 
  • trenchless pipeline rehabilitation.
The “Buying Made Simple” sessions will take place in the Charleston Place Hotel’s Drayton Room. Find the schedule for these sessions and the rest of the Annual Meeting agenda here

Learn more about the program on the Association’s website or by contacting Jake Broom at 803.933.1270 or purchasing@masc.sc.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Take Advantage of the Municipal Association’s Listserves

The Municipal Association of SC offers 14 listserves for different kinds of officials and staff members. Through these listserves, users can connect with colleagues across the state, asking questions and learning about best practices. They also allow users to search through past discussion threads, set up polls to ask questions and share documents. 

There are individual listserves for the Municipal Association’s various affiliate organizations. These listserves address the professional needs of business licensing officials, community development officials, court administrators, finance directors, clerks and treasurers, human resources directors, Main Street South Carolina program directors, municipal attorneys, municipal power system managers, stormwater managers, technology directors and utility billing officials. 

Some of the listserves aren’t connected to any of the affiliate organizations, including the listserve for the state’s planning and zoning officials, and one for city managers and administrators. One is available for public information officers — both those city staff members with that title, and those who have communication aspects in their jobs, which includes city managers and administrators as well as other department heads.

Discussions

Listserve discussions can cover an incredibly wide range of topics, raised by officials learning how their colleagues handle particular issues of concern. Here are a few recent examples: 
  • The SC Municipal Human Resources Association – The single most active listserve has recently discussed job task tests for firefighters, take-home vehicle policies as a hiring incentive for police officers, and offering Hepatitis vaccines for public safety workers. 
  • The SC Municipal Finance Officers, Clerks and Treasurers Association – Recent threads on the MFOCTA listserve have included which cities and towns use a convenience fee for credit card purchases at city hall, the public meetings for which cities are providing livestreaming — city council meetings, committee meetings, board meetings — and guidance for how cities should report their American Rescue Plan expenditures. 
  • Planning and zoning — In recent months, conversations on this listserve have included regulating donation centers within a city, setting timelines for a property with a nonconforming use under the city’s zoning to conform with the zoning code, and handling applications for vinyl wraps to be placed on the exterior of buildings in the historic district. 

Setting a listserve account 

Everyone with a current affiliate membership is a member of the affiliate’s listserve. They can access their listserve through their member home page on the Association’s website. 

To assess a listserve for the first time, members should log in at www.masc.sc, select “Member Home,” then set communication preferences, such as whether they want to receive email notifications about posts. 

Join other listserves on this webpage by selecting “request access” on the appropriate listserve. The listserves have several orientation videos, including one explaining listserve features, one that provides a walkthrough for requesting access, and one that explains how to set up a profile, including notification preferences. 


For listserve assistance, call the helpline at 803.933.1297. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Cities to Identify Unclaimed Funds in June

The South Carolina Uniform Unclaimed Property Act requires that all entities that hold unclaimed funds, including local governments, must work to return those funds to their owners each year. When those holding the funds cannot locate the owners of the funds, they must then send the funds to the State Treasurer’s Office, which continues the effort to find the owners. In June, municipalities should work to identify what unclaimed funds they are holding. 

Municipalities may find that they are holding several types of funds, including these: 

  • Accounts payable – Unpaid credit balances, which can include uncashed payroll checks. 
  • Courts and jails – Overpaid bail bonds or leftover inmate account funds. 
  • Parks and recreation – Deposits for facility rentals. 
  • Water and sewer – Deposits left when customers end service. 

The State Treasurer’s Office offers a timeline for identifying funds and handling them correctly

  • No later than June 30 – Cities must review their records for unclaimed property. 
  • July to October – For all unclaimed funds, cities must attempt to locate the property owner by sending the owner a notification form letter to the last address on file. The law does not require them to send a letter when there is no valid address available.
  • No later than November 1 – Cities must send an electronic unclaimed property report, even if there are no outstanding funds to report, and any remittances to the State Treasurer. The State Treasurer’s website gives information on how to create reports in acceptable formats and remit funds

The Treasurer provides the website southcarolina.findyourunclaimedproperty.com to allow users to search for funds owed to any person or business. The initiative has now returned $414 million in funds.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Professional Municipal Clerks Week Arrives May 1 – 7

The municipal clerk holds the distinction of being the only staff role required by state law in every city and town, no matter its size or which of the three forms of government it uses. Each May, the International Institute of Municipal Clerks marks Professional Municipal Clerks Week to celebrate the essential functions of the role. The 53rd annual observance is coming up May 1 – 7, and the Municipal Association has a model resolution that city and town councils can adopt to honor their clerks. 

Many roles 
Municipal clerks are not often the focus of attention, but they are crucial for keeping municipal governments running. State law includes a narrowly drawn list of clerk responsibilities, including giving public notice of council meetings, maintaining minutes and maintaining records of ordinances and resolutions. 

Beyond the standard items of preparing and distributing agendas, or maintaining the records of appointed commissions and committees, many clerks also serve in financial and administrative roles for their cities and towns. A combined municipal clerk and finance officer role, generally referred to as a clerk/treasurer, is common in small and midsize cities. In larger cities, a standalone municipal clerk position usually exists. And while the statutory duties of a clerk are limited in scope, the reality is that municipal clerks play a critical and varied role to support the mayor, city council, managers and administrators. 

In the City of Clemson, Beverly Coleman serves as the city clerk and the business license officer. She said that the role of the clerk has evolved significantly in her career of more than 20 years with the city. Technology, she said, has made it easier for clerks to gain professional development training and boost governmental transparency. 

“Clemson and other municipalities alike are using websites to provide all council meeting documents, budgets, bill paying and event calendars,” Coleman said. “Livestreaming for public meetings and social media for communication to the public are also being used more than ever. Most municipal clerks have multiple roles, and are the main source of information for their municipality.” 

Town of Snelling Clerk Lisa Still echoed the point of the municipal clerk as a wide-ranging job. 

“When I accepted the clerk position, I thought I would be the town’s documentarian. Take minutes, read minutes, file things, repeat,” she said. “Nearly 15 years later, I realize the role of a clerk really dips into a hundred different duties — especially in a small town like Snelling. In addition to being a note-taker, you’re an event-planning, business licensing, archiving, financial planning, mediating, multitasking municipal wonder. It is definitely not a boring desk job. And, quite honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

Municipal clerk resources 
The Municipal Association of SC offers on-demand municipal clerks training sessions, a series of quick interactive tutorials that explain the duties and responsibilities of the job, and the portions of state law governing municipalities that all clerks should know. 

The SC Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Institute gained eight new graduates in 2022. 

Municipal clerks also have access to a wide range of professional development opportunities through the SC Municipal Finance Officers, Clerks and Treasurers Association, including training sessions and a listserve to ask questions and discuss best practices. MFOCTA is a cosponsor of the SC Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Institute, a three-year program that counts toward the International Institute of Municipal Clerks’ Certified Municipal Clerks designation. 

A recent article in the Municipal Association’s Uptown publication, “A Day in the Life of a Municipal Clerk,” highlighted clerk duties as performed by Gray Court Clerk Treasurer Doris Hamilton, Yemassee Town Clerk Matt Garnes and West Columbia City Clerk Crystal Bouknight Parker. 

Learn more about Professional Municipal Clerks Week and find the sample resolution that city and town councils can use in May to recognize their clerks’ work.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Municipal Association’s Field Services Team Has Expanded

City and town officials across the state are familiar with the Municipal Association’s field services managers, who travel to all of the state’s municipalities to help address issues of local concern and facilitate communication with members. Now, in addition to Jeff Shacker and Charlie Barrineau, the Association has added a third staff member to this team: Ashley Kellahan, who joined in February. 

Most recently, Kellahan served as the town administrator for the Town of James Island. Previously, she worked as a senior budget analysist for the City of Charleston and as the assistant city manager for the City of Abbeville. She holds a master of public administration from the College of Charleston. 

“I’ve always loved how the Municipal Association is a facilitator of great ideas between local governments, and I’m honored to be a more direct part of that process,” Kellahan said. “I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with others, but more importantly learn from what other cities and towns are doing and help shine a light on their successes.” 

The team of field services managers is available to South Carolina’s cities and towns as a resource for when local officials identify significant questions or challenges. The also provide hands-on technical assistance. The field services managers regularly attend city and town council meetings and conduct informational sessions and goal-setting workshops.


Charlie Barrineau led a recent planning meeting with the Darlington City Council. 

Jeff Shacker explains the forms of municipal government during a newly elected mayor training. 

Ashley Kellahan presented the Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government 2022 Honor Roll plaque to the Beaufort City Council on April 13. 

In the past, the field services managers have divided their working territory very roughly between the Upstate and the Lowcountry. The Association will now divide the coverage areas into three parts, with the full transition occurring during the coming months. 

Here is the contact information for the three field services managers:




Thursday, March 31, 2022

Download the New Municipal Association of SC App

The founding principles of the Municipal Association of SC include offering the programs, services and tools that provide municipal officials the knowledge and experience to operate their local governments to the best of their ability. The Association’s newly launched app provides a new way for local officials to pursue those goals, giving a mobile-friendly way to interact with the Association, and connect with its educational and legislative resources. 

Users can use the new app to review upcoming training opportunities on the Association’s calendar. They can also use it to find municipal job openings throughout South Carolina, and find the staff listing for the Association. The app connects users with the Municipal Online Directory, which allows them to search municipalities and their officials in a number of ways, including browsing municipalities by population, or by their state representative or senator. The app can also serve as a helpful tool during meetings, training sessions and conferences for agendas, attendee lists and event information.

Previously, the Association offered standalone event apps for its Annual Meeting and Hometown Legislative Action Day. Now, those events are part of this more comprehensive app. Attendees at these meetings can read about each session and create a personalized schedule. They can also access contact information and communicate directly with speakers, exhibitors and sponsors.

The Association app is available for download on the App Store and on Google Play




To learn more about the app, contact Russell Cox at 803.933.1206 or rcox@masc.sc.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Sunshine Week Focuses on Transparency

Each March, Sunshine Week spotlights the value of sharing public information and the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. In the spirit of Sunshine Week, taking place this March 13 – 19, the Municipal Association of SC is drawing attention to numerous resources to help local governments meet South Carolina’s standards for governmental transparency. 

The Association created a new video series on the Freedom of Information Act’s effect on city councils using executive session as part of their council meetings. In these videos, the Association’s General Counsel Eric Shytle examines several key points and commonly-asked questions about executive session and FOIA. The law allows councils to enter into closed sessions during a public meeting, but only for very narrowly-defined reasons. The law outlines the steps that councils must take to enter into executive session, and prohibits any votes — or even informal polling of councilmembers — during executive session. 

The Association’s Uptown publication celebrates open government in its March issue every year. For 2022, it sought out the perspectives of journalists who cover municipal government in South Carolina, sharing how transparency can help keep the public informed about the governments closest to them. The featured reporters drew attention to the difficulties that can arise when governments try to slow down or stop the release of public information. 

Another article looks at how municipal clerks develop and distribute meeting agendas and agenda packets — key pieces of public information that let the press and public know what business the council will discuss in a meeting. The issue also includes an article that explains the basics of handling public comment periods while keeping public meetings effective and orderly. 

In South Carolina, the SC Press Association serves as a major promoter of the importance of FOIA and governmental transparency, helping to ensure the public has access to relevant information and that the governments that represent them are held to the highest standards. For an overall look at FOIA specifics, see the SC Press Association’s Public Official's Guide to Compliance With South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Statements of Economic Interest Due March 30

The State Ethics Commission requires municipal elected officials and others to annually complete Statement of Economic Interests forms that aim for transparency on any potential personal benefit that a public position could create. 

In a significant change for 2022, the commission has released a new electronic filing portal that allows users to submit their cell phone numbers to receive text messaging notifications if they miss the March 30 deadline. Completing the form by the deadline is critical for officials and others who are required to do so because once the SEI becomes overdue, fines can start increasing daily until they hit maximum amounts. 

The State Ethics Commission’s website offers guidance on the forms. Here are some of the basics of what it covers and who must complete it: 

What is an economic interest? 
The Ethics Reform Act, found at SC Code Section 8-13-100(11)(a), defines an economic interest as "an interest distinct from that of the general public” in a transaction in an amount where the public official or employee gains an economic benefit of at least $50. It could be a 
  • purchase, 
  • sale, 
  • lease, 
  • contract, 
  • option, or 
  • “other form of transaction or arrangement involving property or services.”

Who must complete an SEI form? 
  • Elected officials 
  • Candidates for office 
  • Chief administrative officials, including for water and sewer districts 
  • Chief finance and chief purchasing officers
 
What family members should be included when reporting income?
  • Spouses
  • Children who reside in the household 
  • Anyone else claimed as a dependent
Reportable income includes anything of value reported on an IRS form. 

What economic interests should be reported? 
  • Real estate interests, including those of immediate family members, if it could create a conflict of interest 
  • Public improvements (streets, lighting, water systems) valued at $200 for personal property or adjoining property
  • Real or personal property sold, leased or rented to a public entity What business relationships must be reported?
  • Every business or other entity in which the official or immediate family member has a 5% or greater interest in the value, so long as the value of the interest exceeds $100,000 
  • Any compensation received from a business that contracts with the municipality

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Civility, Relationships the Focus of 2022 Hometown Legislative Action Day

Hometown Legislative Action Day on February 1, bringing together representatives from South Carolina’s cities and towns in person for the first time since 2020, focused many of its sessions on the value of relationships. HLAD sessions always stress the importance of maintaining open lines of dialogue between local leaders and their State House delegations. This year’s sessions added an emphasis on the relationships among the members of a city council, and their relationship with their residents. 

Civility and managing conflict 
At a time when productive discourse seems to be eroding across many levels of government, the Municipal Association of SC is focusing many of its efforts in 2022 on a renewed emphasis on civility in government

In a key HLAD session, Matt Lehrman of Social Prosperity Partners discussed how to identify a community’s shared values and make people feel heard, respected and empowered. Building a career on the idea that disagreement is often not “only natural, it’s necessary,” Lehrman has said that “it should always be possible to address sensitive and complex issues in ways that strengthen communitywide feelings of inclusion and trust.” 

The evening before HLAD, Lehrman also recorded a podcast with Municipal Association Director of Advocacy and Communications Scott Slatton about how to move conflicts in city government discourse to a point where productive conversation is possible. 

Legislative panels 
Each year, advocacy lies at the heart of the Hometown Legislative Action Day, and this year’s agenda featured numerous panel discussions on current legislative issues. 
  • In the law enforcement reform legislative panel, Reps. Chandra Dillard, Tommy Pope and Chris Wooten, and Sen. Shane Massey discussed current law enforcement reform proposals, such as those in H3050
  • The Municipal Association has recently expanded its focus on advocating for the interests of South Carolina’s cities and towns at the federal level. At HLAD, a federal advocacy panel discussion brought together Alyssa Leigh Richardson, state director and deputy chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, as well as David O’Neal, district director for U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman. The panel discussed how local government leaders can foster strong relationships with the congressional representatives. 
  • During the HLAD political outlook panel discussion, veteran political experts from both sides of the aisle talked about upcoming election cycles. The panel featured Reagan Kelley, director of communications and legislative policy for the South Carolina Senate Majority Caucus, and Antjuan Seawright of Blueprint Strategy, LLC. 
  • Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon offered the report of the Municipal Association’s legislative committee, after which the Association’s advocacy team talked through numerous key issues currently debated at the State House. Scott Slatton, director of advocacy and communications, as well as Legislative and Public Policy Advocates Joannie Nickel and Erica Wright briefed attendees on the legislative initiatives that the Municipal Association is following at the State House. 
Messages from Municipal Association leadership 
In her remarks as the president of the Municipal Association, City of Rock Hill Councilmember Kathy Pender praised the ways that South Carolina’s cities and towns have risen to the challenges of the pandemic, and what will come next for the state’s municipalities.

Pender quoted the recently deceased Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” 

“Be that light to your community and to South Carolina,” Pender said. “Be that light to your colleagues, staff and legislators.” 

In his remarks, Todd Glover, executive director of the Municipal Association of SC, highlighted the impact of legislative advocacy for South Carolina’s cities and towns, and described the Association’s strategic plan for the coming years: economic development, workforce and civility in government. 

2020 Census results 
Demographer Jerome McKibben presented an analysis of what the 2020 Census means to South Carolina. The state’s population, while growing by 10.7% from 2010 to 2020, is still experiencing a slowdown of growth — the growth was 15.3% in 2010. He attributed the slowdown to a slowing rate of net in-migration, and a shrinking level of natural increase — the excess of births over deaths. About half of South Carolina’s counties, 24 in total, experienced declining populations.