The Nelson City Council conducted a called meeting to consider the removal of Chairman Lamar Kellett and commission member Mike Haviland, which was tabled so the council could have an ethics committee review his request.
Councilman Larry Sellers was not present.
Leister called the meeting and made the motion to remove Kellett and Haviland for “violation of oath of office” after he said they refused to hand over information.
“If there’s nothing wrong, why hide what you’re doing and deny elected officials and citizens of this town that information?” he asked during the meeting.
The mayor said he requested the information to bring new City Council members Duane Cronic, Jonathan Bishop and Jackie Jarrett up to speed on the projects the commission was working on, such as working with Cherokee County to use parks bond revenue to enhance the city’s parks and efforts to bring certain properties in compliance with the city’s code.
Leister said he filed an open records request and said both members responded to his request by saying they didn’t have the records he wanted them to produce.
Jarrett was the only council member to verbally express support for the mayor’s request, adding he’s also asked for information and had been turned away by commission members.
Kellett, who spoke out in defense of himself and Haviland during the meeting, said the city’s charter does not allow any specific elected official to demand or direct them to do anything.
He also said he met with Jarrett on at least two occasions and discussed the projects they were working on.
Furthermore, Kellett said the commission provides regular updates on the status of their projects at every council meeting.
He also said he was “fully aware” of the Open Records Act and stated the law allows for people to respond to requests by stating those records don’t exist.
Leister’s conflict with both members is the latest in a series of contentions he’s had with the commission in the past.
In January 2011, Leister refused to swear in the commission because of differences he had with members, whom he accused of not wanting to work with him after he expressed belief that they had been withholding pertinent city business from him.
Leister’s feud with the commission stems from his not being invited to attend its meeting to talk about ways to bring more recreational opportunities to the city, which the council tasked the commission with doing in 2010.
On Friday morning, Leister said he believed both members weren’t telling the truth and added he was disappointed by the lack of decision.
The mayor, who said he plans to place the request on the council’s March 5 agenda, said the council’s indecision suggested their “lack of strength.”
Some residents spoke out against Leister’s proposal.
Bonnie Carlton praised the work of Haviland and his wife, Drina, saying they have “done a lot of great things in Nelson.”
She said the city looks very different than when she first moved there four years ago.
“I can’t imagine he would intentionally keep information (from you),” she said, adding the conflict “appears to be a power struggle. … His motives were pure and right.”
Edith Portillo, who ran for the City Council last year, said that while she believes Kellett’s reproach “is not questionable,” she did say it’s imperative for the city to fix its problems and for the current council to buckle down to do business.
“It’s pathetic that this council has problems,” she said. “This town has problems.”