By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
The Town of Kiawah Island has undergone a substantial amount of upheaval this month. On May 5, 2015, during the Town Council meeting, Mayor Lipuma announced that Town Administrator Tumiko Rucker had submitted her resignation, effective at the end of June. She will assist in selecting a replacement when she returns from a month long medical leave. Sixteen days later, on May 21, Town Treasurer Ken Gunnells resigned.
Somewhat unusually, a deputy sheriff was on the premises that day, a fact Mayor Lipuma attributes to a new policy effective at Town Hall.
“The deputy sheriff was at Town Hall to monitor the Ways and Means Committee meeting,” Mayor Lipuma said on TOKI’s Exchange, an online forum for town residents. “We now plan to have this deputy sheriff coverage at all town meetings to control unruly participants, e.g., those who refuse to return to their seats after their 3 minutes of comments. They will be escorted to their seat or the parking lot.”
According to an interview with The Post & Courier newspaper, Lipuma said Gunnells’ resignation had been the result of a “disagreement.”
On May 26, the following statement appeared on the Town’s web site. “Kenneth Gunnells, treasurer of the Town of Kiawah Island, resigned his position with the Town effective on Thursday, May 21. Gunnells has been the Town’s Treasurer since April of 2007.”
“Efforts will begin immediately to search for a replacement for Mr. Gunnells, as well as for Tumiko Rucker, who resigned from her position as Town Administrator earlier this month. The Town has hired The Mercer Group, an Atlanta-based, professional search firm specializing in municipal job placements, to conduct searches for candidates for both positions.” Later the same day another, unrelated announcement was posted on the Town’s website.
“An allegation has been made to Town Council of improper financial transactions by one or more Town employees in violation of the Town’s policies. The Town is taking action to determine the specific nature, scope and validity of these allegations.
At the request of the Mayor, the Town’s attorney, Dennis Rhoad, is engaging an independent accounting firm to investigate this matter. Councilmember John Wilson will act as the Council’s representative in this investigation, working with the Town’s attorney.
“Once the investigation is complete, the results of the investigation will be reviewed with the Town’s legal counsel and the full Town Council. If any improper actions are substantiated, the Town will take appropriate action and will communicate publicly both the findings and any actions taken to address the findings. The Town will refrain from comment about the matter while the investigation is ongoing.”