COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For the second time in almost a week, the Richland County Council has voted to remove County Commissioner Gerald Seals, but this time, they gave reasons why as the removal process begins.
Under the same South Carolina law the Seals said he could not be fired, Councilmember Jim Manning read the four reasons Seals was fired.
Manning said that under South Carolina Code Ann. §§ 4-9-620, the process to remove Seals should be done because:
- The unauthorized major change of county direction. The Richland County Department of Transportation gave a presentation about the allocation of penny tax monies. The presentation was not approved by the council, nor did they know about the presentation. No one has taken responsibility for it at this time.
- The rapid turnover of county employees in the county offices compared to previous administrations. A report submitted to WIS shows 71 employees were terminated by Seals without due process.
- Seals had been sleeping during public council meetings, most notably, on March 6, 2018, and March 20, 2018.
- Questions about the Richland Renaissance project, in particular, questions about studies being completed that had moved to a firm regarding the infrastructure
As of Monday morning, Gerald Seals still believed he's the county administrator despite county council voting 6 to 5 last Tuesday night to fire him, according to an email he wrote to county officials.
That email, provided to us by a member of county council, said Seals had not been notified of his firing even almost a week after the council took action against him.
"I learned of this 'action,' as you know, in the same manner as the general public, via streaming and the news," Seals wrote.
Seals went on to say his firing is not valid due to his contract with the county and South Carolina state law. Specifically, state law requires that county officials provide Seals with a "written statement of the reasons alleged for the proposed removal and the right to a hearing thereon at a public meeting of the council."
"If the administrator does request a public hearing within the time specified by the statue," said attorney Vance Bettis, "then the public hearing has to be held and the removal is stayed. That's the language of the statue, it means frozen in time."
According to Seals, county officials have yet to do that.
"I think we learned a lesson sometimes we need to ask further questions," said Councilman Jim Manning. "We need to ask when we don't even know to ask. As we walk through this process I think tonight you saw very clearly that the council was cognizant to make sure that we had an outside legal counsel to make sure that we did everything right and orderly".
County council members argued and debated over whether or not to fire Seals last week before voting in favor to remove him. Still, the contentious debate ended with Chairwoman Joyce Dickerson and Councilman Norman Jackson even arguing over who would be the one to inform Seals of his ouster.
"I'm going to tell you like this," Dickerson said to Jackson. "I'm not going to do it. You handle it."
If council's action was valid, they must provide Seals with a written notice of their action. Following that, state law grants Seals the right to a public hearing and that his removal will be stayed until the decision at the public hearing.
"I think the council went about doing their business in a very good fashion," said Manning. "Everybody was civil everybody was considerate"
County council has called a special meeting Monday at 3 p.m. to discuss Seals' firing and the installation of Brandon Madden as the acting administrator.