Edward Gomeau is set to exit his role as Richland County's interim administrator.
According to a statement from Richland County Council Chairman Paul Livingston, Gomeau's last day with the county will be March 31. As reported by The State earlier this year, Gomeau had initially intended to step away on Feb. 22, however county leaders convinced him to hang on for another month.
Livingston's Thursday statement indicates County Council "will vote to name a new interim administrator in the next few days." The county continues to search for a new long-term administrator.
Gomeau came to Richland county after a long career in government administration, mostly in the Northeast. He was the finance director in Greenwich, Connecticut, and also spent 23 years as the fire commissioner for the state of Connecticut.
Richland County has been without a long-term leader since a messy divorce with former County Adminsitrator Gerald Seals nearly a year ago. In April 2018, Council voted — twice — to fire Seals, with some Council members accusing the administrator of, among other things, sleeping on the job. Seals subsequently threatened to sue the county.
In May 2018, County Council approved a settlement with Seals: He got nearly $1 million, and agreed not to sue the county.
Though his time with Richland County was short-lived, Gomeau was in the middle of several major issues.
For instance, in February he implored County Council to begin reimbursing the county's transportation fund for millions of dollars in penny tax expenditures that were unallowable per the S.C. Department of Revenue and state Supreme Court. Council approved a $1 million first payment, with more to come. In all there were more than $3 million in expenses that should not have come out of the budget of the Richland Penny, the one-cent sales tax initiative for transportation projects that was approved by voters in 2012.
Also in February, Council approved a robust audit of the Richland Penny program.
When members of Council questioned whether the county had already done such an audit several years ago, it was Gomeau who insisted that the previous audit didn't go nearly far enough.
“I have a draft order from our regular auditors who did a financial statement audit of the [penny tax Program Development Team] for 2016-17,” Gomeau said in a February meeting. “That’s all that I have, I can’t find anything else. But that’s not the requirement that was in the enabling legislation [for the transportation penny]. It was for all expenditures, not just the PDT. It was any money that we spent out of the penny fund had to be audited. So, we’ll do a comprehensive look at this in terms of where we’ve spent money, who’s spending it, and then come back with the audit reports for those years.”
Gomeau was also at the center of the push for the county to rekindle Richland Renaissance, albeit in a slimmed-down form.
The original Richland Renaissance plan, which would have clocked in at about $144 million, was hatched by Seals, gaining narrow approval from Council in late 2017 without any major public rollout or feedback.
After considerable public outcry and rancor, the program ground to a halt in May 2018, with Council voting to defer it, despite the fact that nearly $9 million of properties — including space in the Columbia Place Mall — had already been acquired for the plan.
But the plan many had left for dead showed a pulse in February, when Council voted to authorize county staff to work on bringing it back, with a focus on three specific initiatives: addressing county facilities (including using the space in the Columbia Place Mall for county administrative offices), bringing certain services to Lower Richland, and remediating blight countywide.
At the time, Gomeau stressed to Council that county staff needed direction and authorization from the elected leaders so that the Renaissance could be re-explored. He also insisted that public input would be critical this time around.
“That’s the mainstay of this, to get the public input,” Gomeau told Council on Feb. 19. “Once we put those programs to you, you can hold your own workshops. We need the public’s cooperation. The blight program won’t work without public cooperation throughout the whole county. ... I think we can make this public perception of what we’re doing a lot better than what we have done in the past on some of the things.”
On Thursday, Livingston offered appreciation for Gomeau's "commitment and the contributions he made to the county in such a short period of time."