It’s been nearly five months since this news site broke one the biggest political scandals to hit the South Carolina Upstate in a long, long time …
We’re referring of course to the drama (still) swirling around Greenville County sheriff Will Lewis.
On August 31, we published an exclusive report detailing seismic allegations leveled against the 42-year-old law enforcement leader by his 23-year-old former subordinate Savannah Nabors.
“I know you think you know him, because I thought I did too,” the former sheriff’s office employee wrote in a since-deleted blog post. “He’s a stand-up man, a family man that loves his wife and kids, protects his community, and seeks justice. He’s a church-going man, strong in his faith. You think he could never be capable of something so manipulative, so hypocritical. The man that you think is legal, ethical, and moral is anything but those things.”
“This man, who is twice my age, that I looked to for protection … used his power, his authority in his position, and the trust that he had built to coerce me into allowing him into my hotel room on a business trip out of town,” Nabors continued. “He forced himself on me. He took advantage of me. He brainwashed me from the moment I met him. It was all a set up. It was all for this moment where he took every last piece of me. And I had nowhere to run.”
Specifically, Nabors accused Lewis of drugging and raping her during a taxpayer-funded business trip to Charlotte, N.C. last March. Her claims prompted an investigation by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – news of which was also exclusively reported by this news site.
They also led to the filing of a bombshell lawsuit – also exclusively reported on by our news site – which contained details of the alleged assault as well as numerous embedded audio links painting an incriminating picture of Lewis’ conduct as sheriff.
This lawsuit has since been referred to federal court.
One such recording captured Lewis plotting a romantic getaway (using taxpayer funds) to a conference in Reno, Nevada. In another recording, Lewis (below) is heard attempting to coax Nabors into traveling with him to Reno, a proposition she declined as being “too risky.”
“Ain’t nobody gonna find out – because nobody is going to be out there from South Carolina,” Lewis responded. “Nobody is going to find out. That’s the whole point.”
On the basis of these recordings, last October this news site became the first media outlet in the state to call on Lewis to step down …[timed-content-server show=”2018-Jan-17 00:00:00″ hide=”2018-May-18 00:00:00″]
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“It is abundantly clear that Lewis plotted to defraud taxpayers as part of his efforts to advance an affair with Nabors – secure in the knowledge that no one would ever find out about his scheming,” we wrote. “That, ladies and gentlemen, strikes us as a textbook example of misconduct in office. Whether Lewis is ever formally indicted or convicted on such a charge remains to be seen, but Nabors’ audio tapes make it painfully clear he conspired to spend tax money on their ‘relationship’ and hide that expense from the people who elected him.”
Not long thereafter numerous elected officials and Lewis’ employer – the county of Greenville – also asked him to step down, calls he has resisted to this day.
Lewis’ own wife Amy Lewis appears to have been on board (at least for a moment) with the idea of him stepping down.
Is time running out for Lewis?
Last November, we reported that “multiple allegations of financial irregularities exposed in connection with (Nabors) complaint have been folded into a broader forensic audit of Lewis’ agency.”
According to reporter Brianna Smith of WSPA TV-7 (CBS – Greenville/ Spartanburg), this audit is “nearing completion.”
“The county’s auditor will retrieve financial documents regarding the budget Sheriff Lewis is given, along with financials related to the three foundations Sheriff Will Lewis controls,” Smith reported on Friday. “Those three foundations include ‘The Greenville County Sheriff’s Scholarship Foundation’ founded in 1983, ‘The Greenville Sheriff’s Foundation’ founded in 1984, and ‘Greenville Sheriff’s Office Technology Foundation’ founded in 2017.”
Additionally, Smith’s report highlighted a dangerous lack of transparency on the part of the sheriff’s office related to the management of these foundations.
“When we asked for the names of those persons on the board(s) of directors, the counsel declined to provide any of their names,” Smith’s report noted.
The co-mingling of funds from multiple “nonprofit” entities with a government-subsidized law enforcement agency budget is highly improper, in our view. It is an invitation to corruption and misappropriation – especially if the leader of the law enforcement agency has unilateral control over all of the foundation budgets.
And an itching inferiority complex manifested in the need to cheat on his spouse with young subordinates …
By contrast, the city of Greenville’s police foundation publishes a list of board members who control its finances (a board that does not include the city’s police chief, Ken Miller).
Frankly, there should be no need for such associations … but if they are going to exist (and operative in concert with government agencies) they must be subject to the same disclosure requirements.
As we’ve stated repeatedly, law enforcement is a core function of government and must be funded commensurately … by government. Police offices, sheriff’s departments and state and federal law enforcement agencies should receive the very best training, equipment and technology money can buy – procuring these assets via a transparent, conflict-free process that maximizes value to the taxpayer.
Anything short of that is a failure on the part of government to discharge one of the few responsibilities it has been entrusted with … and which it ought to be performing.
Allowing opaque, incestuous funding mechanisms to develop and operate independent of taxpayer oversight? That’s a serious problem … especially in this case.
Stay tuned … we look forward to the results of both the county audit and the ongoing SLED investigation into Will Lewis and his agency. In the meantime, we would reiterate our call for Lewis to see the handwriting on the wall and step down so the citizens of Greenville County can once again have faith in the integrity of this institution.
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