State law allows municipal councils to use boards and commissions to assist them in carrying out their roles and responsibilities. While the extent to which councils use boards and commissions varies widely, state law requires municipalities to have a planning commissions, board of zoning appeals and municipal election commission unless the city contracts with the county or another municipality to provide one or more of these functions.
Council's responsibility to these entities goes beyond appointing individuals to serve on them. Council has an ongoing responsibility to ensure the entities function properly and carry out their mandated responsibilities without council's interference in their operations.
This oversight responsibility includes ensuring appointees receive and document completion of any training mandated by state law.
Planning commission, board of zoning appeals and architectural review board members must receive six hours of orientation training within a period from six months before beginning service to one year after beginning service. The Municipal Association of South Carolina and the South Carolina Association of Counties offer the only approved orientation training programs.
Each year after receiving the orientation training, appointees must receive three hours of continuing education from a source approved by the State Advisory Committee on Educational Requirements for Local Government Planning or Zoning Officials and Employees. The Association provides links on its website to preapproved continuing education resources.
By December 31 each year, council must inform members of the planning commission, board of zoning appeals and architectural review board of the state requirement to receive training. Council must provide these individuals access to the required training at no cost to the members.
To document compliance with the training requirement, each board or commission member must file an annual compliance certification with the municipal clerk. The yearly filing is due no later than the anniversary date of the individual's appointment. Filing the certification with the municipal clerk is the responsibility of the appointed official.
Municipal Election Commission
Every municipality must have and maintain an election commission on a continuous basis unless the municipality and county agrees by ordinance to transfer all responsibilities for municipal elections to the county election commission.
In 2010, the General Assembly made it mandatory for Municipal Election Commission members to receive training within 18 months of initial appointment or reappointment after a break in service. S.C. Code - 5-15-90.
The mandatory training consists of three courses: "Duties of the Municipal Election Commission," "Poll Manager Training" and "Protest Hearings" (in-person training). The State Election Commission is solely responsible for developing, providing and certifying completion of municipal election commission training. Commission members must provide the municipal clerk with a copy of the training certification, which is then kept in a permanent training file for the commissioners.