Appellate court declines to re-hear Preston case

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By Stan Welch
A long, tangled trail of motions and hearings and lawsuits and countersuits involving Anderson County and its former county administrator, Joey Preston, reached its penultimate status this week, as the South Carolina Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Preston’s appeal of the court’s findings against him. The  appellate ruling leaves Preston  with only one more avenue to pursue – an appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The appellate court declined to rehear arguments by the two sides, leaving its earlier ruling intact with one minor change, which allows Preston more leeway in the manner in which he repays the monies awarded him in a severance agreement more than eight years ago.

The critical impact of the twenty six page ruling was to render the severance agreement awarded Preston by the lame duck Anderson County Council in 2008 null and void.
The appellate court, after years of legal maneuvering by both sides, and lower court rulings was compelled to fall back on Roberts’ Rules of Order to settle the issue of whether or not a quorum existed at the time that the severance package was approved and funded. Lower courts failed to address the issue of potential conflicts of interest by four members of the council – Ron Wilson, now serving a sentence in federal prison for a Ponzi scheme he was involved in  even while on the Council; Michael Thompson, council chairman who at the time was seeking employment in the county assessor’s office; Cindy Wilson, a county councilwoman who had been involved in several legal actions with Preston, both in his official and his personal role; and Bob Waldrep, a councilman who was also embroiled in legal troubles with Preston.
The court ruled that all four members had conflicts of interest and should not have voted. The ruling states, however, that “The County Code provides no guidance for situations in which a vote is invalidated due to a member’s conflict of interest.” The code does however call for such issues, otherwise not addressed by specific code, to be decided per Roberts’ Rules. Those rules declare that no valid action can be taken by any number of voters less than that in a quorum. That simple parliamentary mainstay of legislative procedure undid the severance package, and Preston’s case.
Two county representatives, speaking for background only, said that the county council will have to decide whether to file a motion protecting the county’s case and ability to respond to any further appeal by Preston and his attorneys. One, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Preston will almost certainly appeal to the Supreme Court. “That’s his attorneys’ last chance to come out of this with anything. And Preston has already proved he doesn’t know when to quit.”