There will be an election for sheriff of Greenville County, South Carolina soon … we just don’t know when, exactly.
For the time being, residents of the Upstate’s most populated, prosperous county remain in limbo as it relates to suspended sheriff Will Lewis – whose unraveling in the aftermath of an improper relationship with a subordinate led to criminal misconduct in office and obstruction of justice charges being filed against him earlier this year. Lewis’ sex/ corruption scandal – most of which unfolded exclusively on our pages – remains unresolved. Same goes for a parallel sexual assault investigation into the sheriff being conducted by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department.
The Lewis matter was supposed to have been approaching resolution recently, but then the woman at the heart of the scandal – Savannah Nabors – gave birth to a new baby. The birth of Nabors’ child temporarily shut down the mediation process in a civil suit involving her, Lewis and Greenville County taxpayers – an action we are told has significant bearing on the criminal case against the disgraced lawman.
And just to be clear, Nabors (below) has her own issues related to this inquiry.
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Frankly, Lewis should have done everyone in the Upstate a favor and resigned from office last fall once it became clear he wasted taxpayer resources in pursuit of an affair … but he has steadfastly refused to do that.
Since his indictment and automatic suspension from office back in April, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) has been run on an interim basis by Johnny Mack Brown – a former county sheriff who was appointed to his temporary post by governor Henry McMaster.
Brown, 81, is a definitional placeholder – serving only until the charges against Lewis are resolved. If Lewis pleads guilty (or is found guilty by the courts), he would be automatically removed from office and a vacancy declared. If the charges against Lewis are dropped (or if he is found innocent), he would be reinstated as sheriff.
Given the nature of the charges against Lewis – and the documentation gathered in support of them – we see no scenario in which the sheriff emerges from this saga with his job.
And judging by a series of recent campaign appearances, it appears as though Brown has a candidate in mind to take his place whenever voters are allowed to weigh in on the matter.
Brown’s choice? A.T. Smith, a former U.S. Secret Service deputy director who previously worked for Brown in the sheriff’s office. Smith (below) is the runaway favorite for this position, although as we noted in our prior coverage he will face several challengers.
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Hobart Lewis – who ran unsuccessfully for this position in 2016 – has made it clear he will run again at the first available opportunity. Meanwhile Keith Grounsell, a former GCSO vice and narcotics officer, is also actively campaigning for the job. Lynda Leventis-Wells – a Greenville County school board member and local community policing advocate – is also said to be mulling a bid.
Worth noting? Grounsell, Lewis and Smith have all filed paperwork with the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) to run for this office in 2020 – when it is next on the ballot for a full four-year term.
All have indicated they will filed amended paperwork to run in a special election in the event Lewis steps down, too.
Several other candidates are reportedly considering running, too, although we are told Brown is using his influence as interim sheriff to “clear the field” for Smith.
According to our sources, Brown has told at least two would-be candidates for sheriff that they will be required to take unpaid leaves of absence from GCSO the moment they publicly announce their candidacies. Darius Hall, a captain with the agency, is reportedly eying a run after a quarter century on the force. He is one of two officers who was allegedly given such an ultimatum by Brown.
The other officer? Lieutenant Robert Whately, another quarter-century veteran of the force. Whately is said to have informed Brown of his intention to run earlier this week – at which point he was told he would need to take a leave of absence.
Do we fault Brown for this policy? Not really … however we can certainly see how it works to benefit his candidate of choice. And we can certainly see how these officers might be a bit miffed in light of Brown’s ongoing public advocacy for Smith.
Bottom line? Whenever this election comes off, the filed is going to be crowded and contentious …
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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