Berkeley County Council votes to fire Deputy Supervisor Tim Callanan
Three years ago, as Daniel Island resident Josh Whitley announced his campaign for Berkeley County Council, newly elected County Supervisor Bill Peagler and Deputy Supervisor Tim Callanan, who had resigned from the District 2 seat hours before, stood beside him in support. The mood was congenial and celebratory – and Whitley thanked his friends publicly for their endorsement.
What a difference a few years can make.
At a special meeting called by the Berkeley County Council last Tuesday, Nov. 13, Whitley told his fellow councilmen and the audience that Peagler had “greatly failed” the people of Berkeley County and County Council.
After council returned from an hour-long executive session, Whitley told those gathered that Peagler had authorized a check for $49,900 that was not approved by council be issued to Callanan, who was placed on paid administrative leave late last week. According to Whitley, the funds were allegedly taken as part of what Peagler called a “severance agreement” approved in an executive session last month, but Whitley stated council never authorized such an agreement or payout. He also told those gathered that “council cannot take any action in executive session.”
“Never were monies appropriated by council for the expenditure of $49,900 for a severance package,” Whitley said. “Never did the council agree to a severance contract. I’ll even note that we have a copy of the severance agreement between the deputy supervisor and the supervisor, and the county attorney never saw it, wrote it, got an opinion on it, (and) was not consulted before this was executed between the supervisor and deputy supervisor.”
According to Whitley, the check came from county funds. In response, County Council voted to terminate Callanan, seek a SLED investigation into the possible misappropriation of funds, and freeze Peagler’s authority to expend any more county money that has not already been appropriated.
The meeting began with Whitley addressing accusations from Peagler that Tuesday’s meeting was not given the proper amount of notice, infringing on FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) regulations. Peagler told members of the media he would not be attending the meeting for this reason. Whitley stated that the meeting was given the proper 24 hour notice on the County bulletin board.
“Because the Freedom of Information Act is about transparency, it was made known on the world wide web and every other source distributed as it always is, thus it was a properly noticed meeting,” Whitley stated.
South Carolina Press Association Executive Director William Rogers believes that the session did infringe on FOIA regulations, citing the SCPA’s legal guide.
“An agenda for regularly scheduled or special meetings must be posted on a bulletin board in a publicly accessible place at the office or meeting place of the public body and on a public website maintained by the body, if any, at least twenty-four hours prior to such meetings,” reads Section 30-4-80, subsection A.
The day before the November 13 meeting, county offices were closed in recognition of Veterans Day. Although a staff member was present to post the notice on the facility’s bulletin board, the offices were inaccessible to the public, according to Carli Drayton, Berkeley County’s assistant public information officer.
But County Council claims that the meeting was called under “exigent circumstances,” meaning that proper notice was not required, although Whitley stands by his initial assertion that the notice met FOIA regulations.
In certain “exigent circumstances,” government meetings can be called without proper notice, but Rogers noted that in those cases, a time sensitive emergency is required. At the meeting, Whitley stated the need to protect the county from any further misappropriation of funds qualifies.
With regards to the funds issued to Callanan, Whitley reported that Peagler ordered Berkeley County Finance Director Allen Milburn to write a check to Callanan for $49,900 on Friday, Nov. 9. According to the councilman, Peagler then threatened to terminate Milburn if anyone found out. At the meeting, Whitley did not state how he received this information, but later told The Daniel Island News that Milburn had alerted him about the situation.
Whitley also claimed that the near $50,000 would come from the funds for the salary of the next deputy supervisor, “effectively limiting [future supervisor] Mr. [Johnny] Cribb from hiring a deputy supervisor.” The check, Whitley said, was immediately cashed, so council could not halt it.
At the meeting, the councilman then referred to Berkeley County Public Information Officer Hannah Moldenhauer’s recent leave of absence. Whitley claimed that Moldenhauer was asked to write and issue a press release about the legality of the special meeting by Peagler, and she refused. According to Whitley, she was asked by Peagler to leave without pay until Friday, November 16.
When reached by The Daniel Island News, Moldenhauer stated that Whitley’s account was accurate.
Council then asked to terminate Deputy Supervisor Tim Callanan and requested a SLED investigation into any potential misappropriation of funds and a freeze on the Supervisor’s authority to expend any more county funds. All motions passed unanimously by those who voted. Two councilmen were not present and Councilman Steve Davis abstained from the vote to terminate Callanan. Council decided to wait to conduct a forensic audit until January, after new Supervisor Johnny Cribb takes office.
The Daniel Island News asked Whitley if there were any factors, aside from the $49,900 check, that led County Council to believe Callanan was unfit for the deputy supervisor position.
“No comment at this time,” he responded.
Callanan is a long-time Daniel Island resident and community leader. He is a former chair of the Berkeley County Republican Party and served two terms as president of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association. In 2007, Callanan became the first Daniel Island resident to be elected to Berkeley County Council. After serving in the post for eight years, he resigned in 2015 to take the deputy supervisor position under Peagler.
The Daniel Island News reached out to both Peagler and Callanan for comment. Peagler was not available to take questions. Callanan said he was unable to discuss the situation, but did provide the following statement.
“I will get my day,” he said. “And the truth will come out.”