2018-06-08 / News

Richland County Council discusses details of Seales’s settlement

By Mike Cox

The June 5 Richland County Council meeting began with a presentation recognizing May 20-26 as Emergency Medical Services Week in Richland County. The national recognition began under President Gerald Ford, and this year marks the 44th year of this observation.

During the approval of the minutes of previous meetings, council member Norman Jackson asked several questions concerning the final outcome of the contract for ousted Richland County administrator Gerald Seales. Jackson wanted to know how the former administrator was paid around a million dollars after being fired, who authorized his payment, and where the money came from.

County attorney Larry Smith reminded Jackson the authority came during the return from executive session during the May 14 meeting, when the council voted to accept the negotiated settlement offer from Seales. The vote of acceptance gave authority to execute the contract, including payment.

Nearly $800,000 of the settlement was taken from an insurance fund and the remaining from the general fund. Jackson questioned again why the payment was made before the minutes were approved. Smith reminded Jackson the execution of the contract was official with the approval vote.

During a vote to move into executive session to discuss two items with outside council, the council voted to remain in public during discussion of the bond issue for the Richland Renaissance proposal that was deferred at a recent meeting.

Possible options were explained to the council: either approve the bond item with no money being authorized until the project is reborn and approved, reject the bond ordinance, or defer the bond ordinance so it partners with the currently deferred Richland Renaissance.

Instead of discussing the item, the council began arguing over whether the item was properly before them and if they were authorized to discuss it. Although it appeared the item was properly before the council from the time they voted to refuse executive session, the council recalled the agenda, placed the item in question on that recalled agenda, and voted to defer.

The second item requiring executive session and including non-county attorneys proved even more confusing for the council. After a tie vote, which denied executive session was taken, including the non-vote of Gwen Kennedy, the council was notified by County Attorney Smith that litigation was involved, and they really needed to at least allow that part of the discussion to take place in executive session.

Figuring out who was allowed to request a recall proved even more challenging since there was no prevailing side. Eventually, after much spinning in circles, a second vote was taken, and the item was briefly discussed in executive session.

Upon the council’s return, Greg Pearce made a motion to deny. Why he wasn’t willing to just vote “no” on the motion is anybody’s guess, but he asked for a motion to deny. After he failed to get enough votes, Pearce reminded the other council members they had vowed to refuse to vote new student construction until further notice. Evidently, this got someone’s attention. When the vote to approve was taken, it was also defeated. First time I’ve seen a motion fail on both ends.

Long time county fleet manager Bill Peters was recognized for the excellence of the Richland County Fleet. Peters manages 1,500 different vehicles of all shapes and sizes. In a contest to determine the One Hundred Best Fleets in America, Richland County placed No. 15 out of 38,000 entries.

Peters’s boss, Risk Manager Brittney Hoyle, said she wouldn’t trade Bill and his assistant for ten others. Peters said he was lucky enough to have been working 15 years at something he loves and “looks forward to coming to work every day.” He thanked the county council for its support and reminded everyone he isn’t finished.

During Citizen Input, Jocelyn Waters Bannon thanked the council and the county staff for the excellent program allowing her mother’s home to be renovated expertly. Bannon raved about everyone involved in the program from the folks who signed her up to the actual carpenters and other workers.

In other action, William C. Simon Jr. and Jason Branham were added to the Board of Zoning Appeals, and Eric Grant was added to the Board of Assessment Appeals.

Council chair Joyce Dickerson, Vice Chair Bill Malinowski, Calvin “Chip” Jackson, Norman Jackson, Gwendolyn Kennedy, Paul Livingston, Yvonne Mc- Bride, Jim Manning, Dalhi Myers, Greg Pearce, and Seth Rose were present. More detailed information as well as complete agendas and minutes from past meetings can be found at the Richland County website: www.rcgov.us.

Return to top