The sudden resignation of James Island Public Service District attorney Trent Kernodle sent waves throughout the Commission (2014 Commission pictured). Pictured to the far right is former Commissioner Rod Welch, who last week lost his father. The senior Mr. Welch was the former head of the PSD.
Last week was a wild one in the annals of James Island Public Service District (JIPSD) history. At the governing Commission’s Monday, Jan. 12 meeting, both Town attorney Trent Kernodle and his wife Kay, a recently election Commissioner yet to be even sworn in, had both tendered their resignations. And while the body did agree to accept JIPSD attorney Kernodle’s resignation and will soon commence the search for new legal representation, the latter Kernodle, Commissioner Kay Kernodle did reverse course, was forgiven, and ultimately sworn in a day later.
Things boiled to an inevitable head at the James Island Public Service District (PSD) meeting when the question again was raised if indeed it was appropriate for the Commission to retain the services of attorney Kernodle considering the fact his wife Kay Kernodle was recently elected to the Commission herself. Before I speak further on the matter however, I must preface this piece by admitting first that I was not at this meeting, held Monday, January 12 at Commission chambers on Signal Point Rd.
Having interviewed over a half-dozen residents in attendance as well as the pair of JIPSD Commissioners who actually answered/returned my calls however, I feel comfortable in speaking about the discussion, which escalated throughout the meeting ensued. In the end, despite the reportedly dogged efforts of Commission Chair Donald Hollingsworth to calm the situation and keep the Commission collectively level, things went south
in a hurry.
Trent Kernodle revealed at the meeting that he’d been in consultations with various state ethics and government officials on his own regarding the potential conflict of interest regarding he and his wife serving the same body in the days leading up to the meeting, during which a number of state ethics officials had informed him that there was no inherent conflict of interest in the case of the family, reported Kernodle.
All the same, when Kernodle produced a document he hadn’t been directed to acquire (Commission Chair Hollingsworth had already been investigating the matter himself), the revelation proved too much for first-term Commissioner, rabble-rouser, and all-around swell guy Carter McMillan, who at that point raised the issue of why again the PSD Commission be receiving the document only mere minutes or hours before the meeting on which they were asked to vote on it?’
The issue is not a new one for this Commission. Time and time again matters have been brought before the Commission in my experience that were intentionally meant to surprise the other Commission members potentially opposed to the measure, whatever it was.
Let’s be honest folks, what we’ve got here in a larger sense is a rift between two factions one led by McMillan to reform the PSD into a more transparent, open government, and the other led by Kernodle, who believe the PSD has been a rock over the years, and the status quo is a good thing.
Remember reader, these folks are not robots programmed with Robert’s Rules of Order right from the factory … they’re people, they make mistakes. That being said, I find Kernodle’s reaction to McMillan’s comments unbecoming of the long-time island leader. I didn’t witness this latest spat, but in the past, the personal vitriol and personal nature of thew banter between the two has been in my opinion an unseemly display of machismo that has taken away from the PSD’s focus, serving its customers. Infighting, personal attacks, Commission members taking an aggressive or angry tone with one another, endless sarcasm … these have been the defining moments of PSD meetings over the
I myself am paraphrasing the issue here and have not attended every meeting of the organization of late, and having recently moved across James Island to the Westchester neighborhood, I am no longer a customer of the PSD. That being said, if you are the type of reader who has read my stories going back a decade and furthermore trusts that when I write the Mind of Morrison, it is my mere opinion and not a factual story, trust this: the status quo is dead. No longer will governments be allowed to drag their feet when it comes to providing open, accessible, timely information. The loss of Kernodle as PSD attorney is reflective of this trend, which will not reverse course … ever.
On a side note, JIM would like to express our condolences to the Rod, Robin and the rest of the Welch family on the loss of the stalwart James Island family’s patriarch and former head of the JIPSD, Colonel Robert Ellis Welch, USAF (Ret.).