A lawsuit seeking to cancel a $1 million payout to an ousted Richland County administrator has led to the discovery of text messages showing the administrator and a county councilwoman privately communicating during settlement negotiations.
Richland County Council voted to fire administrator Gerald Seals last year, but they also approved a $1 million settlement that council members said was intended to protect the county from potential lawsuits.
Seals was fired after pushing a $144 million redevelopment project that included buying a vacant shopping mall with little public input.
Columbia area businessman William Coggins filed suit over the payment, arguing the 6-5 vote to approve it should be invalidated because Councilwoman Dalhi Myers was improperly communicating with Seals at the time.
In text messages obtained through discovery for the lawsuit, Seals and Myers appear to communicate about the settlement before and during a County Council executive session. Several comments are redacted.
On May 2, Myers told Seals, “Don’t counter small or reasonable. Go big,” and “Make sure you give descriptive info. So this ASAP while you’re an employee before anything changes.”
Then, during a May 14 executive session, Myers texted Seals, “DO NOT REVEAL YOU KNOW THIS... choose how much you’d take if you got your job back and IF you are willing to move slightly off 1.4.”