Preston to serve as administrator in Bamberg County

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By Stan Welch

Nearly four years after the controversial and litigious buyout of his contract, former Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston has been contracted with by Bamberg County to serve as their county administrator.

The Journal has confirmed that Preston, d/b/a Preston Consulting LLC, will begin work on November 5, just two weeks shy of four years from the November 18, 2008 meeting, which saw him awarded a $1.2 million severance package, and which eventually sparked a state grand jury investigation.

In a statement provided by the Bamberg County Council chairman to The Journal, the long list of awards and recognition which were always a hallmark of the Preston administration are mentioned.

The letter provided to The Journal also states,” Mr. Preston’s philosophy is to respond to the challenges and needs of government with creativity, continuous dialogue, prudent planning, vision, careful budgeting, and ongoing collaboration between communities, their government and their businesses.”

Not mentioned are the ongoing lawsuits between Preston and Anderson County, both of which are scheduled for several hearings in the coming weeks.

A number of motions will be heard in Judge Couch’s Spartanburg courtroom on October 16, including one aimed at restricting testimony related to the events at Cater’s Lake, as well as other information related to Preston’s personal relationship with a subordinate employee for several years.

The events of the November 18 meeting were found to have violated no laws, according to the state grand jury. That verdict shocked almost anyone who attended that meeting, or saw the video recording of it. Nonetheless, it exonerated the lame duck Council.

A lawsuit making many of the same accusations, brought by Rick Freemantle, continues through the courts. Preston is also being sued by the County to recover the funds awarded him, and he is countersuing, claiming that he has been unable to find work in his chosen profession.

That lawsuit was originally dismissed by Judge Cordell Maddox, who saw his decision reversed by the South Carolina Supreme Court earlier this year. The Supreme Court ruled that the South Carolina Freedom of Information issues raised by Freemantle’s suit provided sufficient independent standing for the suit to go forward.

Chief Justice Toal denounced the events of the November meeting in strong terms, saying that it was an orchestrated effort to provide Preston with a golden parachute. Several other justices made similar statements. Those expressions made the grand jury’s decision even more stunning two months later.

Preston’s close relationship with former county councilman Ron Wilson, currently awaiting sentencing for his part in a multi-million dollar mail fraud scheme, has led to speculation that he may have been involved in the silver securities Ponzi scheme; Preston, through his attorney, Candy Kern-Fuller, denies any involvement other than that of being a victim of the scheme.

Bamberg County is located in the southwestern portion of the state.