Clinton Decides Referendum Not Needed

On the agenda of the December meeting of Clinton City Council last night was an ordinance which would have triggered a referendum on the issue of allowing permitted alcohol sales on Sunday within Clinton’s city limits.  However, before that item was taken up by council, City Attorney Allen Wham addressed council and advised that he no longer believed the action is necessary.

Mr. Wham reminded the Mayor and council that the referendum approved by Laurens County voters last month allowed for the sale of alcoholic beverages in the unincorporated areas of the county.  He said he had thought that to ease the alcohol restrictions inside Clinton, city voters would need to approve the same type referendum. Wham said he discussed this issue with other municipal attorneys and with county elections officials.  He said all agree that the county-wide referendum excluded the incorporated municipalities located within Laurens County. But that wasn’t the end of the matter.

Allen Wham told Clinton City Council that he called the South Carolina Department of Revenue last Friday, seeking clarification on the wording of the referendum questions.  He said he spoke with Ms. Tammy Young, an official with the DOR, who said that their department would “ignore the language about unincorporated areas” and would consider the referendum binding throughout Laurens County.  She said that this had been extensively discussed by their legal team and management of the Department of Revenue.

Further, she pointed him to the statute that enabled the referendum question in the first place.  There, he said, Section 21-6-2010-subsection F deals with the issuance of permits and states that permits may be issued in all parts of a municipality if any part of that municipality is in a county where the issuance of the permit is allowed. In other words, Wham said, the Department of Revenue considers the county-wide referendum as binding in all of Laurens County, including in the city of Clinton.

Wham said that Ms. Young advised that there is no need for cities to conduct a referendum, independent of the county.

Hearing that, Mayor Bob McLean did not take up discussion of the ordinance which would have created a referendum within Clinton.