Last month, our media outlet reported on the escalation of several ongoing investigations into Beaufort County government by the South Carolina State Ethics Commission (SCSEC). In addition to three separate ethics investigations (at least), there is also a wide-ranging criminal investigation into county leaders led by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and investigators in the office of S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe.
This week, the criminal inquiry jumped to a significantly higher energy level.
According to a letter obtained by this media outlet, S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor Duffie Stone – who has been working with Pascoe on the Beaufort criminal investigations – referred the cases to the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson for further scrutiny from the statewide grand jury.
“I am formally asking that you impanel the state grand jury to continue this investigation,” Stone wrote.
Stone’s letter to Wilson – dated November 28, 2023 (last Tuesday) – referenced “potential public corruption in Beaufort County” that was currently under investigation by SLED, Pascoe and his office.
“This investigation would benefit from the use of the state grand jury, as it is an investigative grand jury equipped to issue subpoenas and compel sworn testimony in order to discover public corruption,” Stone told Wilson.
Take a look …
(Click to view)
What’s driving all of this elevated investigative scrutiny? A boatload of alleged bad behavior by current and former county officials in this affluent corner of the picturesque Palmetto Lowcountry.
To recap: The Beaufort drama began unspooling this summer after our media outlet obtained and published a county sheriff’s office incident report (.pdf) alleging misconduct in office involving former county administrator Eric Greenway. This alleged misconduct reportedly took place between January 9, 2023 and May 11, 2023.
Our audience is intimately familiar with some of the high profile allegations against Greenway. Council members originally suspended him from office, but they were forced to terminate him two days after a woman he allegedly harassed – and targeted for retaliation when his overtures were rebuffed – went public with her story.
That woman, former county wellness director Lisa Lynch, sat down for an extensive interview with this news outlet back in August, decrying the “pervasive and systemic mistreatment of women” in county government.
(Click to view)
“I’m not going away,” Lynch told me. “I am going to speak for myself and for all women who have not been able to speak out.”
Lynch has been true to her word – which is why she is expected to be among the first witnesses called to provide testimony before the grand jury once it is impaneled.
As for the ethics complains, SCSEC officials confirmed this summer they were investigating Greenway, former deputy county administrator Whitney Richland and former parks and recreation director Shannon Loper based on “probable cause” of violations stemming from complaints submitted to the agency in late July.
Greenway was fired by Beaufort County on July 28, 2023 – a decision which was reaffirmed on September 11, 2023. Richland resigned from her post in August 18, 2023 after our media outlet raised questions about the county’s controversial purchase of $36,000 worth of “weighted blankets” from a business with ties to her family. Loper was fired on October 9, 2023 after she allegedly spent $800,000 on a handicapped-accessible playground in Port Royal, S.C. without following proper procurement procedures.
Meanwhile, the criminal investigation has uncovered all manner of alleged impropriety.
According to our sources, investigators have reportedly heard from multiple witnesses claiming Greenway and Richland “threatened at least one other county employee who questioned their actions in regards to fiscal irregularities and/ or questionable financial transactions.”
We have also heard reports of an alleged coverup – including one county council member who is said to have conspired with others to “cover tracks on wrongdoings and crimes” including rumored “land purchase deals, kickbacks, ghost purchases, overbids, no-bids and more.”
It’s a huge mess, in other words … one the statewide grand jury is ideally equipped to disentangle via its broad subpoena authority.
As previously noted, Beaufort County is one of South Carolina’s largest, wealthiest and most influential county governments – with an annual budget of nearly $150 million. Unfortunately, it continues to be plagued by “politically and governmentally immature” leaders.
Count on this media outlet to keep our audience in the loop as the statewide grand jury investigation gets underway …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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 children.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.