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A legal appeal lodged by former Southeastern Economic Development Corp. President Carolyn Y. Smith against a lawsuit that challenged her lucrative severance package has been dismissed by a judge as moot.
Smith’s $100,350 severance package was nullified by SEDC’s board in February by a newly constituted board of directors. The former president was fired last year after it was revealed that she had overseen a clandestine system of bonuses that funneled more than $1 million to herself and her staff over five years.
The old SEDC board, which was widely considered to be supportive of Smith, awarded the former president the severance package, but the payout was challenged by a local activist, who claimed it had been discussed and voted on in secret, a violation of the state open-government law known as the Brown Act.
That case has been winding its way through the courts and was stalled when Smith appealed. Now that appeal has been dismissed, Cory Briggs, the attorney that brought the lawsuit on behalf of community activist Ian Trowbridge, said the lower trial judge is certain to dismiss his lawsuit. He said he considers his lawsuit a complete success.
“Damn straight this is a win,” Briggs said. “When the SEDC board members nullified the severance back in February, they said their decision was based on a request from the public and cited what the judge had said about the severance in our lawsuit.”
“This lawsuit has saved the taxpayers more than $100,000,” he added.
Briggs said he will now seek reimbursement from SEDC for the cost of bringing his lawsuit. Those fees could be as much as taxpayers saved, he said, SEDC has an insurance policy to protect itself in the event of such claims.