By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Council recognized the District 1 and 2 Career and Technology Center Tuesday night with a resolution acknowledging the CTC’s recognition as the Outstanding CTC by the Southern Regional Education Board. The resolution passed by Council mentions the two thousand students served by the Center, as well as the nineteen different programs that allow those students to prepare for careers and secondary education opportunities in the industrial and business worlds.
The Council conducted a modicum of routine business as it worked through the agenda, before entering into an executive session to receive information about former administrator Joey Preston’s appeal of his case against the County. Following the state court of appeals’ recent refusal to reconsider its earlier decision to void Preston’s severance agreement, Preston’s attorneys exercised their final option, and filed a request for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.
The request describes the County’s case as long on rhetoric and short on facts, saying “This emperor has no clothes.” It further cites Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, who played a central role in the original acts of the 2008 Council, as saying of the case “It’s a vendetta. Just a vendetta.”
The court document refers to the Council’s continued pursuit of the case as a continuation of the toxic political environment that led Preston to claim an anticipatory breach of his contract in the first place. According to the document, subsequent Council’s decisions to pursue the case amount to the determination of Preston’s political foes “to grind on a man who no longer works in Anderson County.”
On November 18, 2008 the Anderson County Council, by a vote of 5-2, awarded then county administrator Joey Preston a severance package worth $1.2 million, despite the fact that his employment contract would run out six weeks later.
The latest appeal by Preston’s attorneys states that the labor law expert hired by the Council after Preston made public a claim of anticipatory breach of his contract advised the Council that they could face a possible downside for their actions against Preston in the amount of $2 million . Preston’s attorneys said that the County case uniformly fails to mention that fact. On the other hand, Preston’s attorneys uniformly fail to mention that Tom Bright also told the Council that Preston’s claim of anticipatory breach of contract had no standing. He also offered the Council three other options aside from paying Preston his groundless demands.
On May 31 of this year, after a grueling eight year legal battle, the South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled the severance contract null and void, and instructed the circuit judge who originally ruled in Preston’s favor to revisit the question of how to redirect Preston’s monthly retirement benefit of eight thousand dollars a month into a constructive trust from whence it would be directed back to the county.
The ordeal began in mid 2008 when three Republican members of the Council, including Larry Greer (D3), Bill McAbee (D4), and Michael Thompson (D5) all lost their primary elections. Eddie Moore, Tom Allen and Tommy Dunn won those three seats, respectively. They lost little time in making their intentions to rein in Preston’s free wheeling administrative style, as well as conducting a thorough review of the county’s finances.
The severance agreement was ruled null and void after five members of the 2008 Council were ruled ineligible to vote due to various conflicts of interest. The remaining two votes were deemed insufficient for a quorum, and the package was revoked. Ironically, Preston’s attorneys are now seeking the same ruling, saying that only two members of the court of appeals ruled on Preston’s last request. According to Preston’s legal team, three judges are required to make a quorum.
By Stan Welch