Law firm finds Greenville County administrator’s contract to be invalid

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According to an evaluation by a law firm in Columbia, S.C., the Greenville County administrator has been working for the past few years without a valid contract.

The county’s attorney hired the firm to evaluate the contract after issues with the Greenville County EMS prompted questions about the contract. The contract came under more scrutiny when some council members said they had not seen it. 

Wednesday, Greenville County Council will be meeting with their attorney and the administrator to determine the next step, according to Council Chairman Butch Kirven. 

“Nobody did anything intentionally or malicious or underhanded about this, it was just an oversight, if you will,” Kirven said. 

Joe Kernell has served as Greenville County’s Administrator since 2004. In 2011, he signed a contract for a base salary of about $216,000. The contract said he would serve through 2017, and then his contract would renew automatically for one year periods. 

An independent law firm found Kernell’s contract is not valid currently because one county council cannot tie the hands of a future county council. 

“We thought the administrator was doing a good job,” Kirven said. “We had goals and objectives. We were accomplishing things, and it was just something that we didn’t think about.”

The Greenville News reported that Kernell’s total compensation has risen to about $363,000 a year, significantly higher than other counties in the state. Now, council is planning on developing a way to evaluate the administrator’s performance.

“He’s been here for 15 years,” Councilman Joe Dill said of Kernell. “To bring somebody in and do a national search and do all those kind of things, it’s not good for the county to go through that.”

Kirven said he believes Kernell is worth the money. Councilman Ennis Fant told 7 News he believes the county is paying too much for the position. 

“We need to start from scratch,” Fant said. “We need to freeze his salary, put together a contract and either he accepts it or dosen’t accept it. And we move forward.”

Kirven did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
 

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