Lawsuit: Richland Co. Council broke the law in rewarding fired

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Richland County resident has filed a lawsuit against the Richland County Council and fired county administrator Gerald Seals, stating that the council did not follow proper protocol when they voted to award a $1 million settlement to Seals.

The lawsuit was filed in the Court of Common Pleas for the Fifth Judicial Circuit by resident William Coggins and says the council "voted improperly and illegally to pay...in excess of $1 million of county tax monies in settlement of employment...", much to the chagrin of taxpayers.

The suit goes on to say the council broke state law in the handling of the vote to award Seals the settlement, which also exceeds the liquidated damages request in his contract. The provisions of his contract are slightly more than $200,000 and $300,000, depending on the cause of his termination.

The lawsuit also denotes that the council did not provide public notice of the May 14 vote, citing that they only indicated a planned executive session for "personnel and contractual matter (county administrator)."

The lawsuit aims to stop payment of the settlement or, if it has been paid, not allow Seals to deposit the funds.

You can read the entire lawsuit here:

Council members met during a special meeting on May 14, 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.

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 have claimed his firing was retaliation for bringing up allegations of ethical issues surrounding some council members.

The former administrator 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.

Copyright 2018 WIS. All rights reserved.