DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Darlington County Council approved a $50,000 payout to former county administrator Terence Arrington following his abrupt departure on Monday, six months before his contract was up.
According to Darlington County Council Chairman Bobby Hudson, the vote at Tuesday's special called meeting was five in favor of the payout, while two voted "no."
Hudson said Arrington received the check before the council had a chance to sign off on it. He added it was a mistake made by county officials that gave it to him.
Darlington County Councilman Lee Flowers said he voted in favor of the payout. Flowers added Arrington's decision was not entirely unexpected. Contract renegotiations have roughly a six-month window, he said, and a meeting in executive session on Monday was held with the former administrator to talk about options.
"There was some desire on his part to see some projects through and to finish what he started," Flowers said, adding Arrington started with the county in 2015. He said that, ultimately, it came down to a personnel business decision and what is best for all parties involved.
Flowers added the $50,000 was, by all accounts a severance package and part of Arrington's original two-year contract. His reason for voting "yes" was because he wanted to honor that contract and avoid a protracted legal battle.
Charles Stewart, took over as the new Interim Darlington County Administrator on Wednesday morning. He talked with WMBF News the first day he took office. He said, "Well certainly out of respect for Mr. Arrington we will look at everything that was already in process and after consultation and evaluation, if we need to head in a new direction with some particular project underway, then we'll do that."
Stewart believes that is the only way to move forward. He was worked with Darlington County EMS for four years in the past, and believes he has the right experience to lead the county.
"I was extremely active in my budget for the three departments I managed before I left here a little over a year ago, so I believe that can just be expanded to all of the departments. Of course you have to work with your staff and directors to understand their specific needs. I'm confident we can get through the budget process without any major hassles," said Stewart.
Darlington County Council Chairman, Bobby Hudson told WMBF News the same exact instance has happened before with a County Administrator, so he wants to make sure taxpayer money is not used for payouts like this again. "Hopefully when the next one comes in it'll be written in their contract there will be no buyout. From you know, your six months you have to work your six months, if not, then you can leave, but you'll get no pay."
Stewart said a role like this one is all about integrity. "To operate the county's operations in the most fiscally responsible and ethical manner that we can possibly do it, and there are numerous irons in the fire so to speak that all county departments have."
The next project for county council to work on is to replace the outdated Darlington County Courthouse. Hudson said, "We're going to go ahead and move forward with that and try to get the funding and put in a new courthouse, because the old one is costing us more to operate than we could a new one.
Stewart will serve until July 1, 2017. County Council is taking bids of Administrator applicants throughout the year.