MONCKS CORNER — The man who helped bring billions of dollars of development into Berkeley County over the past 15 years said he had little choice but to resign Wednesday, effective immediately.
Economic Development Director John Scarborough said Wednesday night that Supervisor Dan Davis told him he could either resign or be fired because they had a "difference of opinion" regarding incentives for a prospective company.
Davis said earlier that afternoon that Scarborough didn't tell him why he was suddenly resigning after 17 years with the county.
"He didn't say," Davis said. "He just said he was leaving."
That's not true, according to Scarborough. "I didn't just walk in at 1:30 and decide I didn't want a career with Berkeley County Economic Development anymore."
Scarborough said he was surprised to find out that Davis felt he was pushing for incentives for one particular company, which Scarborough said wasn't the case. "Evidently, he saw it one way and I saw it another," he said. "I shared all the information I had, which is what he questioned."
Davis, told about Scarborough's comments late Wednesday, declined to comment about what they talked about. "John and I had a meeting, and at the end of the meeting, John resigned, and that's the way it went," he said. "I accepted his resignation."
Davis said he and Deputy Supervisor Chip Boling will handle Scarborough's responsibilities until they complete a nationwide search for his replacement.
Multiple county officials said they don't think Scarborough's departure had anything to do with his performance. Councilman Dennis Fish said his gut feeling is that Davis has been planning to get rid of all of former Supervisor Jim Rozier's highest-ranking department heads since taking office.
"I predicted (Scarborough) was the next one to go a year ago," he said. "I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did."
Scarborough said he never has been reprimanded or written up since Davis took office in January 2007. He said they discussed their relationship when Davis took over and thought they overcame any obstacles.
"We knew we had some differences — there were some politics involved — but I thought we had gotten past that," he said. "Evidently we didn't."
Rozier lured Scarborough away from a career in finance 17 years ago. Two years later, he was named the county's economic director.
It was a fruitful relationship. Under his tenure, the county twice earned more than $1 billion in annual investments, including in 2007 when Google moved to the county. Very few, if any, other counties in South Carolina have lured more than $1 billion in industry in one year.
Since Scarborough has been in office, the county developed the infrastructure needed to put in dozens of industrial parks. He has recruited Nucor Steel, BP, Google, Fruit of the Loom and the expansions of DuPont and Piggly Wiggly, among others. He estimates the county brought in about 30,000 jobs in his time in office.
"I basically give credit to John Scarborough and Jim Rozier for all the growth in the last 10, 12, 15 years," Fish said.
Scarborough said he doesn't have another job lined up. He said he has turned down several economic development jobs in the past year that he probably should have looked at more closely.
"My record of accomplishments speak for itself," Scarborough said. "I've always given 100 percent as it came to economic development in Berkeley County, and I'm just sorry we parted ways. It's not so much just the dollars and the numbers. It's really about the jobs I was able to help bring to Berkeley County."
The situation is reminiscent of Davis firing former Water and Sanitation Authority Director Robbie Metts in February 2007. Davis initially told The Post and Courier that Metts, Rozier's right-hand man, resigned.
Davis later acknowledged firing Metts after the newspaper threatened a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained a copy of the termination letter Davis gave Metts.
Davis said then that he doesn't think there's a difference between asking someone to resign and firing someone.