YO MAYOR, IT’S YO BIRTHDAY …
Columbia, S.C. “mayorhood” Steve Benjamin partied like a rock star at an Orlando, Florida strip club in December 2010 with disgraced former S.C. State board chairman Jonathan Pinson – his partner in a failed government-funded housing boondoggle.
The two even brought a pair of strippers back to their hotel with former S.C. State police chief Michael Bartley …
That’s according to Charles Smith – a former S.C. State vice president who testified under oath in federal court this week.
Pinson has already been indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in a kickback scheme at S.C. State University – the chronically mismanaged, historically black university located in Orangeburg, S.C.
In fact the trip to Orlando was paid for by developer Richard Zahn, who along with Pinson and four others has been indicted for his role in the S.C. State kickback scheme.
“Smith said the group was picked up in a limousine and taken to a hotel,” The (Orangeburg, S.C.) Times and Democrat reported. “Later, they were taken to a nice restaurant and, following that, to a strip club. At the club, Bartley gave Smith $5 to give to a dancer, Smith said. He later learned the money came from Zahn. The group later took two women back to the hotel. Smith said he did not stay in the room with Pinson, Benjamin, Bartley and the women.”
Benjamin – who is married to S.C. circuit court judge DeAndrea Benjamin – was elected mayor of Columbia in April 2010.
On the morning after his election, an SUV driven by Benjamin slammed into another vehicle causing extensive damage to the car and permanent damage to its driver, Deborah Rubens.
Weeks later FITS reported that multiple witnesses observed Benjamin consuming alcohol beverages well into the evening just hours before the car crash. Astoundingly, the S.C. Highway Patrol made the snap judgment that Benjamin was sober – without giving him a field sobriety test, a breathalyzer exam or taking blood from him.
The result of a lengthy investigation into the crash? Nothing. Benjamin was cited for driving with his headlights off … that’s it.
Last April, separate allegations about Benjamin partying with strippers surfaced in the wake of a scandal surrounding Randy Scott – the man he hand-picked to be the city’s chief of police.
Scott got the job after the city’s former police chief – Tandy Carter – was fired for failing to play ball with the investigation of Benjamin’s car crash. Specifically, Carter said that the investigation into Benjamin’s crash was being run by City Hall, adding that he refused to be a “puppet police chief.”
Anyway … it remains to be seen whether Benjamin will be linked more closely to the illegal activity surrounding S.C. State. A lawyer for Pinson has said that Benjamin was the original target of the federal probe, but the “Mayorhood” has dismissed those reports.