Originally created 01/08/97

Democrat chosen to fill New Ellenton council



NEW ELLENTON - New Ellenton has a full house.

With the election Tuesday of Democrat Vernon Dunbar, the town council has a complete set of seven council members for the first time since June.

Mr. Dunbar defeated his Republican opponent, Ken Black, by a vote of 250-137.

Of 1,331 registered voters, 393 people, or 29 percent, cast ballots in the special election to fill the council seat vacated by former acting Mayor Eldon "Cork" Berry in August.

As he accepted congratulations from Mr. Black, the newly elected councilman said he was relieved.

"I just want to thank God for putting me in a position to run and surrounding me with people who were positive and supported me," Mr. Dunbar said.

The New Ellenton Election Commission expects to meet by Thursday to officially certify Tuesday's vote. Mr. Dunbar can then be sworn into office.

Mr. Berry was among three council members who resigned amid the ongoing crisis caused by the town's sewer scandal. Mayor Art Hanna and Councilman Michael Terry left office in June and July.

Mayor Paul Parker and Councilman Joe Gleaton were elected in the Nov. 5 special election to fill their seats.

Five council members, including Mr. Berry, resigned en masse last summer, leaving the town without a government for three weeks. They were protesting a court order to operate the town's unfinished sewer system with town funds, an action they said would bankrupt the town.

NationsBank sued the town in 1993 to recover $5 million plus interest loaned by the state to build a sewer system. About 40 percent of the town has operational sewer lines.

New Ellenton countersued the bank, former Mayor Randy Shaw and former town engineer G.E. "Pete" Cantelou, accusing the defendants of mismanaging the bond funds.

An out-of-court settlement in the lawsuit will be discussed tonight at 7 p.m. at the New Ellenton City Hall.