STEVE BENJAMIN’S INVOLVEMENT WAS ALSO KEPT A SECRET …
The tab for Columbia, S.C. “mayorhood” Steve Benjamin’s wild night at an Orlando strip club – which concluded with Benjamin and disgraced former S.C. State University board chairman Jonathan Pinson inviting strippers back to their hotel rooms – totaled around $8,000.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s roughly one-third of what the average South Carolinian makes … in a year .
How did we arrive at this estimate? We didn’t … the wealthy developer who sprung for the trip did, testifying in open court this week that he picked up the tab for the December 2010 getaway.
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. Also indicted? Richard Zahn, the developer whose 80-acre “Sportsman’s Retreat” property was at the heart of the scheme.
Zahn is the developer who flew Benjamin, Pinson and two others to Orlando on one of his private jets and paid for their “entertainment.”
According to federal investigators, Pinson agreed to accept a $110,000 Porsche Cayenne from Zahn in exchange for his support of taxpayers shelling out $3 million on Zahn’s “Sportsman’s Retreat.”
Two other S.C. State officials were also indicted for their roles in the scandal – including one who testified that he was instructed to lie about Benjamin’s whereabouts during the Orlando getaway.
Benjamin and Pinson are no strangers to questionable taxpayer investments. The two were intimately involved in the Village at River’s Edge – a government-subsidized affordable housing boondoggle that Benjamin conned city council into supporting back in 2006.
Pinson was the one who purchased Benjamin’s interest in the project – which has since been foreclosed upon – for $500,000.
Bankers familiar with the transaction tell FITS it was “very shady,” although they declined to elaborate pending the ongoing investigation.
The Village at River’s Edge received at least $7.8 million in federal “stimulus” money and millions more in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (USHUD). Columbia, S.C. taxpayers also shelled out money for the project.
Benjamin’s tenure as mayor has been one scandal after another … from the very moment he was elected in April 2010.
In the early morning hours following his victory, 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.”