Town Council votes 5-1 to hire attorney to overturn controversial mediation settlement
After months of deliberation and discussion, the Sullivan’s Island Town Council took a major step forward toward saving the island’s Maritime Forest from mass cutting under a controversial mediation settlement passed in October of 2020.
In a 5-1 vote the council agreed to hire an attorney to ask for a judicial review to see if any aspects of the mediation settlement are illegal under South Carolina law. Video available here.
Council voted to hire Attorney William Wilkins with the Nexsen Pruet law firm. Wilkins is a former federal judge, who provided an independent review of the mediation agreement last fall and determined that it was “invalid and unenforceable.” Wilkins’ original opinion.
“As we are trustees of the legislative powers vested in us by our constituents and have a duty to preserve and protect those powers, the only prudent course of action is to seek such a determination,” said Town Councilman Justin Novak.
Wilkins details key reasons that the mediation settlement is illegal:
- The settlement agreement improperly restricts the legislative/governmental powers of present and future Town Councils.
- The settlement agreement unlawfully delegates the legislative/governmental powers of the Town.
- The settlement agreement unreasonably restricts the proprietary functions of the Town.
- The provisions of the settlement are unenforceable in law or contract, and the unenforceable provisions cannot be severed from the settlement agreement.
“Tonight’s action is a long time in the making,” said Sullivan’s Island for All President Karen Byko. “While this is not a victory yet, it’s a huge step in the right direction. All of this is a testament to the citizens who showed up to vote in a new council, who supported council’s efforts to save our maritime forest and at the same time advocated for this amazing natural resource that a small group of residents want to destroy for better views.”
The Maritime Forest provides protection for all islanders from hurricanes and storm surge, while also housing a unique and expansive wildlife ecosystem. Members of Sullivan’s Island for All and a majority of island residents, want to see this unique natural resource saved for future generations.