Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Officer manager loses; former fire chief gains

A lawsuit was filed June 29, 2010 on behalf of an employee who has served the City of Columbia for over a quarter of a century.

Valerie Smith, whose position as office manager within the office of City Manager Steve Gantt and who has served two previous city managers, has lost her position in order to create a temporary position for former fire chief, Bradley Anderson. He “retired” in January in the middle of a controversy involving alleged fire code violations at Benedict College which were not corrected and for which charges in city court had been nol prossed (dropped) on order of the inspector’s supervisors within the fire department headed up at the time by Anderson.

Further, as set forth in the lawsuit, Smith charges City Manager Gantt with fraudulently breaking the city’s agreement to buy out her retirement time to allow her a full retirement under the South Carolina Retirement Systems and manipulating the process to take away retirement credit she had earned as a police cadet under the separate Police Officers Retirement System. Smith, an African American, had agreed to withdraw charges of race discrimination and retaliation against Gantt and the city,, as well as to release the city and its managers for liability from defamation and harassment suffered by her after Charles Austin’s position was filled by Gantt following Austin’s resignation in 2009.

Smith’s attorney, J. Lewis Cromer stated:

“At a time of economic hardship when the budget of the city is in need of severe reduction, it boggles the mind to think that a position would be created to let an official who left the city under questionable circumstances, come back and tread water at taxpayers expense until he could get his health insurance benefits paid under state retirement and all at the expenses of a manager with service over a quarter of a century and on top of all that, to try to cheat that employee out of her small retirement supplement for her service asa police cadet many years ago defies explanation.”

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