By Stan Welch
Recent and persistent reports in the local daily newspaper that the County’s lawsuit against Joey Preston has cost $2.8 million have been questioned by members of the Council, who argue that the amount is the total for all litigation during the five years since Preston received his severance package.
Tuesday night, District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was slated to present a detailed breakdown of the County’s legal expenses. But Wilson’s longtime rival and political opponent, Gracie Floyd, District Two Councilwoman, used her regular time slot on the agenda to launch a preemptive strike, attacking the County’s pursuit of the Preston case.
She began by questioning the findings of Bob Daniel, who was brought in shortly after the 2009 Council was installed to review the financial practices of the Preston administration.
Daniel’s findings, while revealing tens of thousands of undocumented credit card expenses incurred by Preston; real estate transactions that resulted in commissions for Preston’s personal friends as well as a member of Council; and last minute raises for certain high level employees that ranged from 10-27 per cent, did not result in indictments by the grand jury, a point Floyd made loudly and repeatedly.
“We have spent $2.8 million dollars and we lost. There was no crime found. Nothing! We found nothing. You can say that this wasn’t all spent on getting Joey but it was. And we lost. We have had our day in court and we lost.”
Floyd went on to say that she is tired of being identified as a Preston supporter, even though she was intricately involved in the actions of the Council at the Nov. 18, 2008 meeting where they gave Preston a $1.2 million severance package with just six weeks left on his employment contract.
“It grates on my nerves to be called a Joey supporter. I am not here to support Joey Preston. I don’t want to spend any more money on this Joey thing. I want to spend money on paying our employees more and on paving our roads.”
Floyd then introduced her own timeline for the events in question. “This goes back way before 2008. It goes back to when I had been on Council for a while and we went from five members to seven members. That’s when Ms. Wilson came on the Council . Then during the Beaverdam project, she went after Joey as a vendetta.”
In her insistence that the legal costs incurred by the County in defending itself and its various members against lawsuits are all related to Preston, Floyd fails to mention that she introduced Candy Kern Fuller, who litigated all those lawsuits, as her personal attorney at the January 2009 Council meeting. That act kicked off a series of three lawsuits filed within months, and a string of litigation that continues even now.
That act kicked off a series of three lawsuits filed within months, and a string of litigation that continues even now.
As Wilson explained during her rebuttal, “Cordes Seabrook, former Anderson Independent Mail publisher Fred Foster, and two convicted felons sued the county and lost. But they appealed all the way to the State Supreme Court. Nobody complained about the cost then.”
The two felons referred to were Reverend Erick Bradshaw and Floyd supporter Doreen Montepara.
Wilson continued to detail the amounts spent on various litigations, and announced that in fact, approximately half of the reported $2.8 million was actually spent on the Preston lawsuit.The remaining amount was spent on other litigation, financial audits and investigations.
She pointed out that Michael Cunningham’s lawsuit against the County and the appeal cost the County over $300,000. She also cited the litigation concerning the Greenpointe C&D landfill in the Slabtown area.
Wilson pointed out that neither Floyd nor her supporters had complained when Preston spent an average of $1 million a year for five years in an effort to prevent public information from being made public.
She also raised several questions about the consequences of not pursuing an appeal of the recent court ruling in Preston’s favor. “If we do not appeal, how many other county administrators will hire mistresses at the public expense?”
“But more importantly,” said Wilson, “What would prevent other administrators from filing lawsuits against elected officials who question them, thereby rendering them ineligible to cast votes, as the court ruling determined she and former Councilman Waldrep should have been when the severance vote was taken?”
“This would allow the administrator to neutralize the elected officials, essentially undoing their election by simply filing a lawsuit,” she said.
The Council still has a decision to make on whether to file an appeal, they are currently waiting to learn the results of their motion to reconsider, filed last week.