Consulting contracts awarded in last days of Preston administration expire

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By Stan Welch

Two contracts awarded by former county administrator Joey Preston to friends or relatives of friends in the last days of his administration have finally expired, and will not be renewed. The contracts, one to State Senator John Scott, dba C&S Consulting, and one to Alison Schaum, dba Palmetto Agriculture Consultants, cost the county and the taxpayers $466,910.86 since November of 2008.

The contract with Senator Scott’s firm cost $354,601.76.The contract signed with the County by former County Councilman Ron Wilson’s daughter, Allison Schaum, owner of Palmetto Agriculture Consultants, paid her $112,309.10 over the last three years.

In the case of both contracts, what had been a year by year arrangement was modified to a three year deal with lucrative buyout clauses, worth several times what the actual contract would be worth.

The compensation established in the C & S contract paid the company’s owner, Senator John L. Scott Jr., $162 an hour during the first contract year, increasing to $167 an hour and $172 an hour respectively for the next two years.

In addition, the contract stated that, should a second employee perform work under the contract, and work more than 20 hours a week, they would be paid half of Scott’s hourly rate. Travel and out of pocket expenses were also covered for agreed upon project activities.

Those same terms also applied to the PAC contract, signed by Preston and Schaum on November 1, 2008, while Councilman Wilson was involved in negotiations concerning Preston’s eventual $1.14 million buyout..

Schaum’s rate of pay was set at $75 an hour, $85 an hour, and $95 an hour respectively for the three years of the contract.

Another similarity between the recently expired PAC and C&S contracts was the fact that they established extremely lucrative severance agreements. For example, Schaum, acting as owner of PAC, LLC was slated to receive just under $400,000 if her company’s contract was terminated.

Scott would have received more than three times that amount. He stood to be compensated on the basis of the remaining time in each of the three years of his contract, and to be compensated as if he had worked fifty hours a week under the terms of that contract. Fifty hours per week times fifty two weeks is twenty six hundred hours. For comparison, of course, a forty hour week is 2180 hours a year, without vacation or holidays.

In the first year of the contract, assuming a full 2600 hours, and multiplying that times $162 an hour, Scott would have received $421,200. The next year, at the rate of $167 an hour, that figure would have grown to $434,200. In the final year of the contract, based on a pay rate of $172 an hour, he would have received $447,200, for a total of $1,302,600.

But the recent windfall is just the latest largesse Senator Scott has reaped from his dealings with Anderson County. During past years, beginning in 2003, invoices submitted to Anderson County by C&S Consulting Group, reflected amounts in the range of $2000 to $3500 a month from October of 2003 till September of 2004. Such amounts would result in payments between $25,000 and $42,000 a year, or approximately one tenth of the severance provided by the new contract.

By midsummer of 2004, Scott was invoicing the county for eight hour meetings at a rate of $125 an hour, or $1000 a day. In addition, travel expenses for a single day routinely approached or exceeded $100 a day.

Such monthly invoices became fairly routine, based on County records and other information obtained by The Journal under the FOIA in 2006. Such monthly rates resulted in Scott receiving annual compensation in the $65,000 – $75,000 annual range. While the exact figures have not been obtained, Scott easily received an additional $300,000 during his tenure as a mass transit consultant.

Records obtained by The Journal under the SCFOIA were obtained only after an unexpected and prearranged confrontation with Scott, who accused The Journal of targeting him because he is black. Among those records sought was the work product generated by Scott.

While Scott’s invoices included lists of meetings and phone calls and discussions he took part in, the only real product produced was a twenty question questionnaire concerning the use of buses by the public. There were also two pages of handwritten notes, including one page listing the names and terms represented by the various acronyms included.

Perhaps the most significant similarity between the contracts signed by Schaum and Scott, respectively, and by Joey Preston, collectively, is the fact that both were completed during Preston’s last month as county administrator, and well after he had lodged a claim that his own employment contract had been anticipatorily breached by members of the incoming Council, who had yet to be seated at the time.

November was the last month of Preston’s duties. On November 1, 2008 he signed the contract with Schuam; on November 18, Schaum’s father, County Councilman Ron Wilson, produced a buyout offer which was quickly approved by a majority of Council, and which paid Preston more than a million dollars in severance benefits. Wilson has said he had no knowledge of his daughter’s new contract, and that it played no part in his actions concerning Preston’s buyout..

Remarkably, Scott’s latest contract was signed on Friday, November 28, the last business day before Preston’s employment ended.