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Lowcountry Government Drama: Another Front Opens

Beaufort County treasurer Maria Walls files lawsuit, alleges retaliation following prior harassment, hostile workplace complaint.

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The government of Beaufort County, South Carolina has devolved into definitional dysfunction this year – and the drama is far from over as several elected leaders overseeing this unmitigated goat rodeo appear more intent on covering things up rather than insisting upon (or taking) accountability.

Our audience is familiar with the main story unfolding in Beaufort – the criminal allegations against former county administrator Eric Greenway. Greenway’s termination for cause in late July was upheld last month by the county’s government council.

Our news outlet exclusively reported on the Greenway fiasco … which is far from over.

As previously noted, the criminal investigation into Greenway – which is being run by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and investigators in the office of S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe – has uncovered “extensive misconduct” on the part of the terminated six-figured bureaucrat as well as multiple other county employees.

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In addition to extensive financial misappropriation, investigators have reportedly heard from multiple witnesses who claim Greenway and former deputy county administrator Whitney Richland “threatened at least one other county employee who questioned their actions in regards to fiscal irregularities and/ or questionable financial transactions.”

Several other county officials – and potentially elected leaders – are also under the microscope as it relates to alleged misappropriation and misconduct in office.

Our audience is also intimately familiar with the drama that led to Greenway’s downfall, notably his harassment of former county wellness director Lisa Lynch – and his subsequent retaliation against Lynch when she rebuffed his romantic overtures.

To learn more about that saga, be sure to check out this exclusive interview I filmed this summer with Lynch … who has courageously confronted the mistreatment she endured (and whose cooperation with investigators is what initiated the ongoing criminal probe of county government).

(Click to View)

Former Beaufort County wellness director Lisa Lynch. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

Harassment of female leaders within Beaufort County’s good ‘ol boy system is nothing new, though. Current county treasurer Maria Walls and former county chief financial officer Alicia Holland both filed lawsuits against the county in recent years in response to harassment they allegedly endured while discharging their official duties as public servants.

The source of that harassment? Former county auditor James “Jim” Beckert.

This week, Walls filed another action – alleging retaliation on the part of the county against her in her official capacity. Walls’ lawsuit (.pdf) accused county leaders – including Greenway and others “reporting to him” – of “impermissibly interfering with the management of personnel employed in the Treasurer’s office,” which is an independently elected position accountable to the citizens of the county.

Of interest? The lawsuit claimed this conduct has continued after Greenway’s termination – which is serving to reinforce perceptions that the recently terminated bureaucrat was only part of the problem in county government.

A symptom of the disease, if you will.

Specifically, Walls’ pleading accused the county of deviating “from its regular budgeting process for fiscal year 2022-2023” and altering and modifying “funding requests submitted by the Treasurer without the Treasurer’s awareness.” County leaders have also allegedly pursued their vendetta against Walls by “reducing the salaries” of her employees, “demoting personnel,” blocking “promotions and compensation” and even withholding pay from employees who were forced to work during a recent hurricane.

“The county administration’s ongoing, improper attempts to manage the budget of the treasurer’s office and assert control over the compensation of personnel employed by the treasurer’s office adversely and impermissibly affect the treasurer’s ability to perform her duties,” the lawsuit noted.

(Click to View)

Beaufort County treasurer Maria Walls. (Provided)

In an open letter to county residents detailing the lawsuit she filed this week, Walls made it clear she believed the county was retaliating against her because she chose to defend herself against Beckert’s alleged harassment.

“In 2020, I and other women filed lawsuits against Jim Beckert for the harassment and (the) hostile environment we endured,” she wrote in the letter (.pdf). “Despite this pending litigation, members of the county and I managed to work together productively until April of this year when mediation between the parties failed.”

“Since then, the County has retaliated, making a concerted effort to interfere with and impede my ability to continue serving you successfully,” she continued. “I expect the county’s retaliation to continue. I expect false and misleading accusations to be made about me, the treasurer’s office, or others who are striving to bring sunlight to the darkness that has become Beaufort County’s culture.”

Walls encouraged citizens to speak up – and demand better from their elected leaders.

“When whistleblowers are marginalized, you are needed,” she wrote. “When victims are retaliated against, you are needed. When unethical acts are swept under the rug, you are needed. When egos create dysfunction, you are needed. When government services are destructive, you are needed.”

Walls isn’t the only one accusing county leaders of retaliation. After sounding the alarm on Greenway, Lynch was terminated from her job as county wellness director – prompting her to decry the “pervasive and systemic mistreatment of women” throughout county government.

“Maria is the victim here and the retaliation is real, I can assure you as I have experienced this first-hand,” Lynch told me Saturday morning. “Shedding light on the darkness that has become the culture at Beaufort County is not without consequences. Thank you for having the courage to stand up, Maria.”

Lynch added she would continue advocating on behalf of all taxpayer-funded employees in Beaufort County who were “subjected to the whims of these power-hungry leaders – who still lack any accountability and fear no consequences for their actions.”

Beaufort County is one of South Carolina’s largest, wealthiest and most influential county governments – with an annual budget of $143.6 million. Unfortunately, it continues to be among the Palmetto State’s most “politically and governmentally immature,” as I have previously noted.

Be on the lookout for additional coverage of this unfolding Lowcountry governmental drama as our media outlet patiently awaits substantive responses to several recently filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

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MARIA WALLS’ LETTER …

(Via: Provided)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Dylan Nolan)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.

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1 comment

Steven October 9, 2023 at 9:30 am

I would appreciate it if this news outlet could furnish the budget information pertaining to the Beaufort County Treasurer’s office and conduct a comparative analysis with the budgets of Treasurer’s offices in other counties such as Charleston and Greenville.

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