Richland County council reaches settlement with fired administrator worth over $1 million

Richland County council reaches settlement with fired administrator worth over $1 million

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Council is looking to move forward after reaching a settlement with former county administrator Gerald Seals.

On Monday night, council members met during a special meeting, going into closed session for several hours. Upon returning, the council voted 5 to 4 in favor of reaching a settlement exceeding $1,000,000 with Seals.

Council members Yvonne McBride, Greg Pearce, Gwendolyn Kennedy, Chip Jackson and Dalhi Myers voted in favor of the settlement. Seth Rose and Jim Manning were not present at the special meeting.

"Not resolving it could be significantly more costly, so my decision was based on the information I had at the time and the alternatives," Jackson said. "I did not want to be involved in a long-protracted litigation process where there's a 50/50 chance there's no loss to the county or a significant loss for the county."

In April, Jackson voted against firing Seals. He said at the time, he did not feel the process was being carried out properly.

"I did not feel there was due process, that it had been followed, others thought it had been," Jackson said.

During Monday night's vote, Jackson said he did not agree with everything included in the motion, but believed moving on and putting the issue to rest was in the best interest of the county and its citizens.

"There are no winners here," Jackson said. "Some may think Mr. Seals won because he settled, but he's no longer here, he no longer has a job, he no longer is employed by the county."

Seals spearheaded the Richland Renaissance project, aimed at revitalizing parts of the county and making county offices more accessible to residents. Seals long said the price tag for the project was estimated at $144 million, but some council members have argued the project could cost in excess of $250 million. With his departure, Jackson hopes the county can continue the work.

"I'm excited about the possibility and hope what has happened now will allow us to get back on track and refocus to make sure those plans become reality," Jackson said.

Jackson said the threat of potential lawsuits brought by Seals was one factor the county weighed in deciding on the settlement.

"I wasn't willing to roll the dice with the citizen's money to a situation that could potentially — and I'll emphasize the word potentially — when I knew what was at hand last night," Jackson said.

The county's official reasoning behind Seals' firing in April followed allegations of sleeping on the job, not consulting the council on big issues, and rapid turnover in staff. Seals has claimed his firing was retaliation for bringing up allegations of ethical issues surrounding some council members.

Seals was named interim county administrator in July 2016. In December 2016, the council stopped its search for a new administrator and offered Seals a contract, which Rose and Pearce both voted against.

Jackson said now that has a settlement has been reached, the issue has been resolved. He was unable to reveal the details of the settlement.

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