Ruling Keeps S.C. Chief At Work


A Spartanburg County judge ruled that a meeting which led to the termination of the Holly Springs fire chief violated the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.

Chief Lee Jeffcoat's attorney, Ryan Langley, said he asked a judge to look into the June 16 budget meeting where Holly Springs fire commissioners asked Jeffcoat to a take a pay cut. Jeffcoat said he received a termination letter after refusing a cut to his salary.

According to a declaratory judgment issued by judge Roger Couch, the meeting violated the Freedom of Information Act in the following ways: it failed to give proper notice of the June 16 meeting of the Holly Springs Fire Commission, commissioners failed to take proper minutes of the June 16 meeting, the meeting was not open to the public and commissioners took a secret vote at the meeting without public notice.

The ruling reads, "It is therefore ordered that the Holly Springs Fire Commission is enjoined from any further violation of the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act and is further enjoined from implementing any action taken at the June 16, 2010 meeting."

As a result, Jeffcoat went back to work on Friday.

"We're happy with the decision that the judge made," Langley said. "The chief's main concern is continuity of fire protection for the citizens of Holly Springs."

Following that ruling, there will be a hearing before the judge next week.

An attorney representing the fire commission said he will ask the judge to clarify his ruling to make it possible for commissioners to hold another meeting which abides by the Freedom of Information Act and gives them the ability to act upon their decisions made at the June 16 meeting.

"If they want to have a meeting and discuss these issues, and properly notice the public, of course the chief will attend and have his position heard," Langley said.

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