Fairfield’s 4th interim admin choice out; Caulder, Squirewell up next

WINNSBORO – Time’s almost up for Fairfield County to designate an interim or permanent administrator before running afoul of state law.

In spite of four failed attempts in as many weeks to seat an interim administrator, the county’s top elected official asserted Tuesday night that one would be confirmed by Thursday evening, June 3.

At the special meeting called on Tuesday night, council was set to discuss the fourth candidate. Council Chair Moses Bell emailed council members Tuesday morning that the candidate would be David L. Rawlinson, an upstate educator for more than thirty years. There was no mention in the email that Rawlinson had government experience.

By mid-afternoon the same day, The Voice learned that Rawlinson had declined the job offer, citing turmoil on council, and that Bell had put forth two other names for consideration at the evening meeting – Michael Squirewell, a home builder who lives in Ridgeway, and Brad Caulder, the county’s human resources director.

Both men were interviewed in executive session for more than an hour, but council took no action on selecting either of them.

Bell told The Voice following the meeting that he anticipated interviews will resume during a special meeting tentatively planned for Thursday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m.

Asked if council would continue the selection process with Squirewell and Caulder or interview another candidate, Bell said he didn’t think a new candidate would be considered at this point.

Rawlinson’s candidacy for the interim position was preceded by three other failed considerations for the job. The first candidate, a former Richland County government official, didn’t make it to the vote before he was dropped from consideration because of reports linking him to sexual harassment in the workplace at Richland County. The second candidate, educator Jim Rex, dropped out the day after council voted to approve him for the position, citing turmoil on council. The third candidate, former Richland County administrator Gerald Seals, said his offer for the position was withdrawn by Bell the day following the vote. It was formally withdrawn by council four days later.

Fairfield County has until the end of business Friday, June 4 to appoint an interim administrator to comply with state law.

It was only three weeks ago that Bell issued an RFP for a search firm to advertise and bring candidates to the county for the administrator job. After securing a firm to search for qualified candidates, Jason Taylor, the current county administrator, said it could take as much as six months to fill the position.

Section 4-9-620 of state law states the following: “The council shall employ an administrator who shall be the administrative head of the county government and shall be responsible for the administration of all the departments of the county government which the council has the authority to control.”

Taylor and Laura Johnson, the county’s assistant county administrator, are both leaving their posts June 4.

Tim Winslow, executive director of the S.C. Association of Counties, said the county could merely designate an interim administrator by council vote while continuing to search for a full-time administrator, noting that’s how Pickens County proceeded with a recent vacancy.

Numerous top-level employees have departed Fairfield County in the wake of the November general elections, which saw a dramatic shift in the council’s balance of power. The council now routinely votes 4-3 on most issues of consequence, including votes on appointing an interim administrator.

In light of the fact that the county will have neither a county administrator nor an assistant administrator after Taylor and Johnson depart the county offices on Friday, council members voted 5-0 to give Anne Bass, the county’s finance director, signature authority for county checks. Council members Doug Pauley and Mikel Trapp were absent for the vote.

The vote is contingent on the county confirming the legality of giving Bass that authority.

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