Spartanburg Judge rules in favor of Preston – on severance package

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By Stan Welch

In a decision handed down Friday by Judge Couch of Spartanburg, former Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston prevailed completely in the case of Anderson County’s lawsuit to rescind the $1 million severance package he received in 2008.

On Friday, Judge Couch identified four council members, Ron Wilson, Michael Thompson, Cindy Wilson and Robert Waldrep as having improperly cast votes concerning the severance package.

Wilson’s daughter, Alison Schaum had just weeks before benefitted directly and substantially from the amendment of her services contract from a month to month agreement to a three year agreement at much higher py and with a lucrative buyout clause.

Thompson, chairman of the Council at the time, was seeking future employment in the assessor’s office and had received training paid for by the county.

Judge Couch opined Wilson came on the Council in 2001 with a “personal grudge” against the county administrator.

Both Wilson and Waldrep were being sued by Preston at the time.

It was the potential outcome of that suit and its financial impact that Couch said constituted a “significant appearance of impropriety.”

Couch also stated that he found the testimony of Council members Bill McAbee, Larry Greer and Gracie Floyd more credible than that of the other witnesses.

Kelly Nichols’s testimony about her long running affair with Preston while she was a subordinate employee was deemed irrelevant and was excluded form the judge’s consideration.

As a result, Couch found in favor of Preston on every single count in the lawsuit brought by the County.

The judge also found that Preston is entitled to legal fees but held the issue in abeyance in anticipation of possible further litigation. No decision has been made public concerning whether or not the County will appeal the ruling.