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VIDEO INCLUDED: Warren booted from DSS board

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Commissioners remove Warren from DSS board for abusing role as chairman

By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—The tables have turned and it was county commissioner Charles Warren’s turn to be removed Monday night.

During Monday night’s county commissioners’ meeting, commissioners voted four votes to one to remove Warren from the DSS board for, among other things, removing fellow board member Pat Sykes and a Beacon reporter from a December 2011 DSS board meeting.

Warren cast the lone dissenting vote.

After removing Warren from the DSS board, commissioners voted four votes to one to appoint former DSS board member Elsie Peterson, whose term expired last year, as his replacement.

Commissioners had a hearing Monday night to consider if they had just cause to remove Warren from the DSS board. Commissioners originally scheduled the removal hearing for January, but first had to clear a legal hurdle when Warren sought an injunction to stop the hearing.

Superior Court Judge Jack Hooks ruled commissioners have legal authority to conduct a hearing to remove Warren from the DSS board because it was commissioners who appointed Warren to that role.

The county called two witnesses to testify during the hearing—assistant county manager Steve Stone and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Miller, who Warren had remove Sykes and the reporter from the Dec. 13 meeting.

During his testimony Miller said he did not think Sykes’ behavior was disruptive or warranted removal or arrest.

Warren called fellow DSS board member Bernest Hewett as a witness. Warren also testified.

Hewett testified Sykes was disruptive during the Dec. 13 meeting.

County attorney Huey Marshall asked Hewett if DSS board member David Grimes, like Sykes, was disruptive during the Dec. 13 meeting.

“He was argumentative, not disruptive,” Hewett replied, and then added the DSS board couldn’t work with Sykes because she was “constantly out of order.”

During Warren’s testimony, he first read a prepared statement, which he later sent to various media outlets.

Warren said commissioners “lacked authority” to remove him from the DSS board. He contends he acted within the law at the DSS meeting in question.

“My actions were taken as part of my legal duty and obligation as chair. It cannot be said that I took any actions, which would rise to the level of good cause, even if there was the legal authority to do so,” Warren said.

“No cause, much less good cause, exists for my removal from the Brunswick County Board of Social Services.”

Once Warren went off script, however, he launched into a string of accusations alleging he was targeted and attacked because of race.

Then he went into a tirade about race and religion.

“If you attack me you attack the God within me. And God don’t like ugly,” Warren said.

“You guys talk about religion…Christians. Everybody talks about it. Maybe your religion and mine is two different. Because I can remember back in slavery when they talk about religion, when the Caucasians go into church, have a church meeting, then go outside and hang three or four black people.

“So don’t talk to me about religion. I’m aware of religion. I just want you to know that I love my God, and my God loves me,” Warren said.

Commissioners respond

Marshall urged commissioners to engage in conversation on the issue rather than just vote.

“Open means open. If we do not tolerate dissent, what hope is there in calling this a democracy?” Marshall said.

“I think this is most unfortunate,” commissioner Marty Cooke said.

Commissioner Scott Phillips said he found just cause to remove Warren from the DSS board.

“The just cause is that I see is the effects to this county, the effects to the DSS board and to that department. All of us sit here to serve the people of this county. You sit on that board in violation of a county policy, but you sit on that board to serve the people. It is my opinion that the people are not being served appropriately in that function,” Phillips said.

“When you take action, you should know whether or not you have the authority to take that action,” Phillips added.

Commissioners Phil Norris said Warren was clinging to his role on the DSS board as a power struggle.

“It’s not about me, and it’s not about you. It’s about the people of this county. We [as commissioners] get blasted sometimes, and I sit here and I take from people of all races.

“I am very disappointed in the way DSS meetings are conducted. I feel it’s an abuse of your power. If someone disagrees with you, you eject them from the meeting. I think that’s an abuse of power. And I think it’s serious. I think it’s very serious. And I am truly offended by you calling me a racist,” Norris said.

Like his fellow commissioners, chairman Bill Sue said Warren repeatedly abused his power as DSS chairman.

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or by email at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com.

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