Judge Rules County Council Had Right to Terminate Administrator’s Employment

According to Greenville Online, a Circuit Judge Alex Macaulay has ruled in favor of Anderson County, dismissing a wrongful termination lawsuit brought on by Michael Cunningham. A former Anderson County administrator, Cunningham claimed the County Council wrongfully terminated his contract, which had been approved by previous lame-duck council. The newly elected officials said they should not be bound to hire a worker they did not get to vote on. Cunningham was employed in his position as the administrator just a few months before he was fired.

Macaulay wrote in his order that the ability for an elected body to choose its own administrator and terminate the employment of one is an important right because of the position’s vital role in executing legislative decisions.

In light of these duties, said the judge, the county council must have an unfettered discretion to move, re-appoint and modify the employment terms of the administrator. Cunningham claimed the county council dismissed him without cause and did not pay him severance owed under a contract he signed three months earlier. The county’s attorneys argued the contract was not binding as the council did not vote on it which made Cunningham an at will employee. The council passed a resolution condemning the way Cunningham had been hired by the previous council and vote to terminate his employment.