By DEUCE NIVEN
& JENN CAUSEY
Council conversation concerning a quit claim deed Mayor Todd Harrelson signed to a Loris merchant early this year grew increasingly contentious during Monday’s City Council meeting.
That conversation could be moving to a courtroom early in the new year, council member Carroll Padgett said during the meeting, and again Tuesday.
“If the quit claim deed is not returned I will be making a motion to have the city attorney bring a lawsuit to nullify that deed,” Padgett said Tuesday.
That motion could come during council’s first meeting of the new year, next month.
Padgett, responding to a July 21 Tabor-Loris Tribune story on Harrelson’s legal action without the knowledge of council, asked that the mayor retract the quit claim deed during an Aug. 2 meeting.
That has not happened, prompting a tense exchange between the men Monday.
Harrelson signed the quit claim deed relinquishing any claim to an alleyway adjacent to Todd’s Auto Parts that stretches between Broad and Railroad streets on March 11. He signed as “Mayor City of Loris” without involving, or notifying council, and defended that action again during Monday’s meeting.
“I won a race to be mayor,” Harrelson said Monday. “A couple of people on council that want to pick didley squat at every little thing and there’s a few other things also involved from the past where this council had no problems where the mayor doing things just as similar or a lot different all the way across the board with several contracts.
“All we gotta do is just look back and find them but they are there. I got a problem with that, especially when this property never belonged to this city to begin with.”
Padgett, an attorney and former Probate Court Judge who for decades represented the city, evoked a Latin phrase to rebut the mayor.
“Mr. Mayor, that is not the issue,” Padgett said. “When you deed without council approval, it’s a ultra vires act, which is illegal, regardless of who it belongs to and is inappropriate.”
Ultra vires, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University (law.cornell.edu) defines as “meaning ‘beyond the powers.’ (It) Describes actions taken by government bodies or corporations that exceed the scope of power given to them by laws or corporate charters.”
Padgett said he believes a court will find that the mayor committed an ultra vires act, but that first council will have to act.
“Without four votes, it doesn’t go anywhere,” Padgett said Tuesday. “I assume that we won’t get one vote, the mayor’s, to file a lawsuit. We will see about the rest of council.”
That vote won’t be needed, Padgett said, if Harrelson retracts or rescinds the quit claim deed.
Very few in Loris were apparently aware of the Mayor’s March 11 signing, or likely had given much if any thought to the 30-foot alleyway also bordered by the former Brick Warehouse once owned by the Graham family, before this newspaper learned of the quit claim deed last summer.
Harvey Graham III, on behalf of the family, also provided a quit claim deed for the alleyway, both Todd’s Auto Parts owner Charlie Todd and the mayor said during a Sept. 7 council meeting.
At that meeting Todd was critical of the business that now occupies the former Graham building, NMB Wholesale, saying that it was “using this alley as a scrapyard with metal containers partially blocking the alley and creating unsafe driving conditions.”
Todd, despite receiving quit claim deeds for the alleyway from both city government by way of the Mayor, and the former Brick Warehouse owner, seemed eager to be rid of the alley.
“First, let it be known I don’t want the ally,” the auto parts business owner said at the Sept. 7 council meeting. “Why would I want to take over, unnecessarily, a property I would have to assume liability, maintenance and taxes.
“I would love for city to take over the alley.” – firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com