Showing posts with label corruptionsc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corruptionsc. Show all posts

Chesterfield County Sheriff indicted amid numerous misconduct allegations

It's not a good time to be a Sheriff in South Carolina - they keep getting in trouble. The latest is Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker, who was indicted earlier today on six counts of misconduct in office

Parker's indictment comes after reports surfaced in January of a SLED investigation - an investigation which the agency originally denied was taking place.

Parker faces four counts of Misconduct in Office and two counts of Furnishing Contraband to Inmates, accused of allowing state inmates to live as civilians outside of prison in exchange for working on his home and personal property.

Parker's indictment follows a string of arrests and removals of Sheriffs in rural counties around the state in recent years. The list includes former Sheriffs in Abbeville, Lee, Saluda and Union Counties. There have also been inquiries into the operation of the Chester County Sheriff's Office by a Sheriff who lost a re-election bid last year.

Two years ago, Parker said he was called a "a ruthless, barbaric, redneck, hill-billy killing machine", after four of his employees were accused of taking animals from a local animal shelter and shooting them, allegedly for target practice, making the county of Democratic State Rep. Ted Vick more like the home of Michael Vick.

No word on when the Governor's office will appoint a replacement, but we've been informed local Democrats want to see the current Chief Deputy appointed to replace the Sheriff.

More Sheriff problems

The last couple of weeks haven't been good for South Carolina Sheriffs.

Last week, the Abbeville County Sheriff was convicted for misconduct in office. This week, problems reportedly have surfaced in two other counties: Chester and Chesterfield.

The Link, a Chesterfield County newspaper, reported that SLED is investigating reports of using inmate labor. While SLED denied the investigation to WBTW TV News, the Blogland received other reports of an ongoing inquiry going back to Friday of last week.

But wait, there's more ...

Alex Underwood, the newly-elected Sheriff in Chester County, found unserved and unlogged warrants for several dozen people in a storage container that dated back over the last year and were left behind from the previous Sheriff, who Underwood defeated in November. The charges reportedly include a wide range of offenses, including drug violations, rape and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Underwood has called SLED in to investigate and help untangle the mess. Source have confirmed that there is discussion of bringing charges in the matter.

Let's hope Underwood's tenure goes uphill from here.

S.C. State to offer Corruption major

Struggling with declining enrollment and funding shortfalls, S.C. State University could use some fresh new ideas to help boost enrollment. The Blogland has been informed that the college intends to specialize in a new major in Corruption.

"A lot of people have called this college a poster child for corruption," one source at the Orangeburg-based university told us. "So we figured 'why not work with what we're good at?'"

The school has been the center of a lot of attention regarding money, ethics and it's leadership. Recently, a former university board Chair and former campus police chief were busted in a big kickback scandal. While this would seem to be more than enough of a scandal for any college, S.C. State has been the source of enough incompetence and mismanagement for ten colleges, as evidenced by a string of problems faced by the school:

Blogland Tales of Corruption

It's no secret that South Carolina government is a playground for the dishonest, unethical and downright criminal - and occasionally the lights get shined on a few of them, including here in the Blogland.

A new subject category on the right-hand sidebar "CorruptionSC" allows quick access on Blogland postings which discuss the corrupt, dishonest and inept games and those who play them. Many of them may not be big, sexy headline stories, but often state and local governments screw us by the little things, not the big things.

Amazingly, many of these things are done in local government without any effort to hide what is being done.

The Blogland has been doing its part to try to change some of that and will continue to do so, but your help is needed. If you've got a story to tell, the Blogland is ready to listen to what you have to say. Drop us an email anytime.

Abbeville Sheriff arrest raises questions about courthouse corruption

Yesterday, Abbeville County Sheriff Charles Goodwin was charged with misconduct in office. This is related to allegations of a kickback scheme related to work performed on county cars from 1998 to 2011.

Goodwin wouldn't be the only Sheriff busted in recent years. Former Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin was nabbed by the feds for his role in a Lee County drug ring, former Union County Sheriff Howard Wells was convicted for lying to federal officials while former Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth was found guilty of misconduct in office for using inmate labor on his personal property.

But Sheriffs aren't the only courthouse officials who are getting into trouble around the state, raising questions about conduct by elected courthouse officials - and who is watching them.

Kickback scheme at S.C. State the target of federal probe and indictments

At any reputable public college or university, the kind of dysfunction, stone-walling and misappropriated money that seems the norm at S.C. State Universiy wouldn't be tolerated.

Today's news of federal indictments related to kickbacks involving S.C. State board members and campus police are yet another wake-up call for the school nobody seems to want to touch:

A former trustee at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg has been indicted in a federal kickback scheme, according to documents unsealed Thursday.

Court documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that Jonathan N. Pinson faces two felony counts of interference with commerce by threat of violence. Pinson, a Greenville businessman, used his position to solicit favors and money, prosecutors said.

Also indicted is a Greenville businessman who allegedly worked with Pinson. A former university police chief pled guilty to his role in the scheme and is cooperating with investigators.

Apparently since the state won't clean the school up, the feds will have to do the job for South Carolina.

We know these would be problems at other places, but look at the pattern taking place here. Nobody seems to care what takes place, judging by the lack of accountability for the school, so if the big money hole known as the James E. Clyburn Transportation Center is considered perfectly acceptable, which it seems to be based upon the lack of attention upon the school's problems, why should anyone care about a few more kickbacks?

Isn't it finally time for someone to take this school's problems seriously, demand accountability and either clean the school up or close it?

Florence County crony hire "saves" money?

Only in places like Florence County could hiring an unqualified good ol' boy be considered a way to save money - which is exactly what the hiring of Rusty Smith, Florence County Council's Chair, to serve as County Administrator is being called.

The "Rusty Re-Do", the second attempt by Council members to give Smith the job, hired Smith for roughly the same salary as the outgoing administrator, who was sent packing with a six-month salary severance after his first year on the job.

Not surprisingly, the departing administrator, who was hired after Smith's first attempt to get the job was torpedoed by negative publicity, was shown the door after he faced "resistance" in his job. We're pretty sure some of that resistance came from Council members who wanted to give Smith the job in the first place, which they did just before several members of Council left following the November elections.

The "Rusty Re-Do": Another moment in Florence County cronyism

Last year, an effort to give the job of Florence County Administration to Rusty Smith, who serves as the Chair of Florence County Council, blew up badly with a high-profile backlash that went so far as to generate an opinion against the move from the state Attorney General's office. Smith ultimately withdrew and Council hired a professional administrator

But a little more than a year later, it looks like the "Florence Fix" is about to become the "Rusty Re-Do".

Last week, the administrator announced his resignation amid reports that he was having trouble running the county's government (we're sure the Council Chair and his buddies on Council had nothing to do with this ... wink, wink ...). This came along with news that Smith's Council colleagues are planning to move quickly to give the job to Smith - without the usual search for a qualified replacement that is conducted extensively and in the public eye.

Since Smith didn't fare well with highly public vetting processes before, so we could see why Smith and his cronies would want to avoid the kind of embarrassing and highly-public spectacle that killed his first attempt to get the job.

S.C. State: The transportation center quagmire continues

While declining student enrollment and a projected deficit at South Carolina State University might seem like major problems, it's not stopping the university from planning to sidetrack much-needed tax dollars and tuition money into the never-ending quest to build a discredited facility named after Congressman Jim Clyburn.

Efforts to build the university's James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center have been dogged by a number of audits, spiraling construction costs, funding shortfalls and the loss of federal recognition for the facility. In spite of these problems, the college administration is proposing to allocate $1.6 million in their budget for the fiscal year 2012-2013 towards building the center, even though the university does not expect to begin during this fiscal year.

Last year, the Center was hit by a Legislative Audit Council report which found the tens of millions of dollars missing, reported "duplicate billings, insufficient state matching funds and questionable payments" of amounts sometimes in the six-figure range and resulted in some expenses being referred to SLED for investigation of abuses by individual employees of the center. It also showed the construction of the center, which lost its federal University Transportation Center status, was plagued with mismanagement.

Not only is the center named after the Congressman, one it's better-known alumni, one of the proposed buildings will be named after his wife Emily, leaving us wondering how many other Clyburn relatives will have their names gracing parts of the Center - if it is ever completed.

Clarendon Cover-up State Rep launches Senate bid

Last year, Democrats almost handed a normally-safe State House seat in Clarendon County to the GOP when they nominated Kevin Johnson, the former Mayor of Manning. Questions about Johnson's mayoral travel were raised and stalled until after the special election for the House seat was over.

After long-time Senator John Land decided to not seek re-election to his Pee Dee region State Senate seat, Johnson was quick to announce his candidacy for Land's seat - a campaign he was planning even before Land decided not to run - less than a year after he was elected to the House.

While FOIA responses were initially stalled until after the House special election could take place, we're hoping to see a full accounting of where the money in Manning went - as well as where Johnson went - before Johnson's campaign for the Senate moves forward.

Given the many funny games we've uncovered by Clarendon County Democrats, we're not going to hold our breath waiting for the truth to emerge.

Small town strangeness, Part One: Foolishness in Wellford

For today's first tale of small town strangeness in South Carolina, we take you to Wellford, a small town in Spartanburg County which drew national attention a couple of years ago when their then-Mayor, Sallie Peake, directed that the town's police follow a "no chase" policy.

But it wasn't just what she said that drew attention, but how she said it that make this tale interesting. A TV interview of her rambling and disorganized attempt to defend the policy to a reporter she tried to dodge showcased just about everything wrong in speaking to an audience.

Now, the former Mayor, who railed in the video about wasting money, calling police chases "foolishness", was arrested, accused of engaging in another kind of foolishness involving taxpayer money:

AG opinion takes aim at the "Florence Fix"

On The Pickle Barrel blog, Florence County GOP Chair Bill Pickle updates readers on the "Florence Fix": a deal in which members of Florence County Council are reportedly working to appoint Rusty Smith, the current Council Chair, to fill soon-to-be-vacated position of County Administrator.

Pickle reports that the S.C. Attorney General's office has issued an opinion cautioning County Council to not appoint Smith, warning that he may not be legally eligible for appointment to the job:

At a minimum, South Carolina law requires that Chairman Smith removes himself from any influence over the process of selecting the new administrator. Moreover, while it does not appear the Ethics Act requires Chairman Smith to resign from his seat on council during his candidacy, section 4-9-100 of the South Carolina Code might make Chairman Smith ineligible for appointment at this time. Finally, it is the opinion of this Office that it would be contrary to the public policy of this State for a county council to appoint its own member as administrator.

After the rumored deal to fast-track Smith's appointment came under fire by local good government advocates and GOP activists, Council has slowed the selection process, with no information available as to the current status of the candidate search, or if council is vetting other candidates for the job.

Fighting the "Florence Fix"

Growing questions about plans by Florence County Council to hire the current Council Chair Rusty Smith as County Administrator seem to be slowing down plans to fast-track a backroom deal. While it seemed as if the fix was in for a quick insider deal as early as last week, sources indicated plans to hire Smith were put on hold due to growing scrunity by local citizens.

The Florence Morning News joined those asking questions about the pending backroom deal when its editorial staff published an op-ed calling for much-needed transparency into the process for selecting a new administrator:

(I)n this very special situation, county council needs to make its selection process a wide-open affair that’s as transparent as a windshield on the done side of a car wash. They ought to do that anyway, in our opinion, but the slight odor of something awry emanating from the halls of power over this affair makes it an imperative. If people are saying the fix is in, then it’s a public servant’s job to do everything in his power to show them it’s not.

Municipal governments in South Carolina are required to maintain a certain amount of transparency when hiring a top executive. The state’s open records law requires them to make public the applications and other materials associated with “no fewer than three” candidates who are seriously considered.

We think they ought to go further in this case, and have asked county officials do so. We’d like to take a look, and have the public take a look, at all the resumes received for the job. There are supposedly close to 100, but we’d think it would be worth the time to look, just so we’d know how many really qualified candidates there are and to understand what choices council had before they do or do not select Smith.

We couldn't agree more. The current administrator will be on the job until November. While it's important to have someone on the job in enough time to ease the transition, that's no excuse to fast-track an insider deal without transparency and fairness for both taxpayers and applicants alike.

We'll be sure to keep you posted.

Florence County: Back-room politics update

On Thursday, Florence County Council is expected to meet behind closed doors to do what politicians often do behind closed doors - do things they don't want you to see them doing. Like giving one of their own a free ride to become the next County Administrator, which we first reported earlier this month.

This is nothing new in Florence, where using the powers of your office to look out for your buddies is an accepted practice among officeholders - as well as fact that the voters to choose to elect and re-elect them. So maybe they're really ok with this taking place?

One former member of County Council questioned this pending insider deal and accused Smith of using his position on Council to benefit himself. In a letter to local news media, he asked Florence County residents to:
(A)sk your council member (and Rusty Smith):

1. How did Smith get the road to his home changed to a county-maintained road from a privately maintained road?

2. How did Smith get the county to keep his property taxes below that of comparable properties nearby?

3. How did Smith buy property in a county industrial park considerably below market value? Wasn’t the classification of the property in the park set for manufacturing, not retail? Also, how much park work benefitting Smith was performed while Smith was a councilman?

More cronyism in Florence County

If Florence County isn't one of the most crooked counties in South Carolina, it's certainly one of the most obviously bassackwards ones when it comes to ethics and local goverment.

Last year the Blogland talked about major conflicts of interest with Solicitor Ed Clements, known for a lousy prosecution record that might have something to do with his close ties with local defense attorneys, including one really whiny one who emails the Blogland to tell us "we don't get it".

Atlantic Beach: Transparency dies here

The Grand Strand summer is getting a little hotter with a recent changing of power in Atlantic Beach, long known for hosting an annual Memorial Day weekend Bikefest which has been blamed for unleashing waves of crime across the entire Grand Strand. The town's last Mayor, Retha Pierce, has been accused of unleashing a crime wave of her own, with numerous arrests, one conviction and other charges pending.

Among the moves made by the new guard was the firing of the town's police department by a man who was once fired from the job of being the town's police chief: new Town Manager Benny Webb. The day before, the town's attorney and two judges were sacked. These events followed a long council meeting which was held mostly behind closed doors and questioned by some town residents.

Apparently Atlantic Beach hasn't heard of that transparency and ethics thing.

But Webb's not just been a source of controversy along the Grand Strand. Over the last year, Webb has come under scrutiny in the Pee Dee region.

Clyburn: "Blame it on Sanford", Blogland: "Whatever"

It seems like J.C. Hammer has reached some conclusions about what he believes to be the root of the problems at the grossly-mismanaged and incomplete James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center at S.C. State University. While audits have pointed to numerous instances of mismanagement, Clyburn says it's all ... Mark Sanford's fault?!?

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn blamed former Gov. Mark Sanford on Tuesday for delays in building a South Carolina State University transportation center that bears his name, and he said that has contributed to fundraising issues.

More factually-supported investigations have identified problems which included "duplicate billings, insufficient state matching funds and questionable payments" of amounts sometimes in the six-figure range and resulted in some expenses being referred to SLED for investigation of abuses by individual employees of the center.

It's also worth noting that Legislative Audit Council Director Thomas Bardin said auditors found no evidence that Sanford or anyone in his administration had done anything to stall the project.

South Carolina State: We don't need no education

While the Legislative Council audit found the tens of millions of dollars which went missing, their findings included "duplicate billings, insufficient state matching funds and questionable payments" of amounts sometimes in the six-figure range and resulted in some expenses being referred to SLED for investigation of abuses by individual employees of the center. It also showed the construction of the center, which lost its federal University Transportation Center status, was plagued with mismanagement.

You can read the full LAC report HERE and a summary of the report HERE.

Somehow S.C. State President George Cooper found these findings, the first of three audits of the Center, to be good news. But given his record, it's not too surprising that he still doesn't get it.

Kevin Johnson: Your tax dollars on vacation

In tough economic times, families in places like Manning are facing tough times, having to cut back and do without.

Everyone except their Mayor.

Manning Mayor Kevin Johnson, the Democratic candidate for the vacant State House District 64 seat, has been living large at taxpayer expense. Over the last twenty months, he’s been to all sorts of places, courtesy of his financially-struggling constituents: Washington, D.C., Hilton Head, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Columbia and New Orleans.

We’re pretty sure that’s more travel than most Manning residents – or District 64 residents - have been able to afford during this economic downturn. Maybe this explains the town’s initial reluctance to release these reports before the election, as well as why threats were being aimed at those who were expressing their concerns.

So where did the money (and Kevin Johnson) go?

More threats in House 64 special election race

The nasty war of threats and intimidation by Clarendon County Democrats continues as they struggle to hold onto the vacant District 64 state House seat in Clarendon and Williamsburg Countiesseat in an upcoming special election.

Recently, Sanders sent a FOIA request to the Town of Manning where Johnson serves as mayor, requesting records about his expenses. Johnson threatened legal action against Sanders, telling the Manning Times newspaper:

Mayor Johnson was accused of several things, some of which are defamatory and libelous and may lead to legal action.

Our sources have reported the lawsuit threats were also directed at Clarendon County Republicans who forwarded the media release via email. Todd Kincannon, a Columbia attorney who has represented various Republicans and GOP organizations in legal matters around the state is planning to assist in defending against Johnson's threats: