SC

Lowcountry Government Drama: Federal Lawsuit Filed

“Quid pro quo sexual harassment …”

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Last summer, our media outlet reported exclusively on a major government scandal in Beaufort County, South Carolina involving the town’s top two appointed bureaucrats – as well as the politicians who appointed them.

“Several elected leaders overseeing this unmitigated goat rodeo appear more intent on covering things up rather than insisting upon (or taking) accountability,” I noted at the time.

The headline allegation? That former Beaufort County administrator Eric Greenway – who was fired from his job as a result of the scandal – improperly retaliated against former county wellness director Lisa Lynch after she rebuffed his romantic overtures.

“Be aware of what you gave up tonight and what this will cost you,” Greenway texted to Lynch after she attended a gathering of friends with another man, infuriating the veteran bureaucrat.

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That same evening, Greenway unilaterally canceled a project Lynch and several of her associates were working on, citing unspecified “concerns.” He also canceled a contract between the county and Elementzal LLC – a company run by Lynch and her sister-in-law, Angie Hassinger.

Following the romantic rebuffing, Lynch ultimately lost her job at the hands of one of Greenway’s henchmen – another Beaufort bureaucrat who was fired as a result of revelations unearthed during the scandal.

“It is not okay,” Lynch told me during an interview last summer. “There’s no world in which this is okay – where women are treated as second-class citizens.”

Well … except for the fact such discriminatory treatment is sadly par for the course in Beaufort County government.

While the criminal investigation into this scandal is ongoing, Lynch dropped a bombshell civil suit in federal court late last week against her former employer. According to the complaint (.pdf), the county fired her as retaliation for blowing the whistle on Greenway’s unrequited advances – which were meticulously document in the filing (along with his petty retaliatory moves).

“Beaufort County – either by or through Eric Greenway – was going to make sure (Lynch) paid dearly for not returning the affections of her supervisor and for complaining of the treatment she received based on her gender,” the filing noted.

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According to Lynch’s pleading, her termination was not the end of the retaliation as “lies about (her) were spread internally, to members of the press and at public meetings by agents of Beaufort County.”

The suit alleged a hostile work environment, retaliation, negligence, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, breach of contract, fraud and wrongful termination, among other causes of action. It seeks relief, damages, a declaratory judgment and attorney’s fees.

“Greenway acted out of anger and romantic rejection because (Lynch) refused to return his affections,” the complaint claimed, buttressing this allegation with text messages, emails and other documents.

According to the lawsuit, Greenway’s behavior constituted “quid pro quo sexual harassment,” behavior which was “encouraged and protected by (Beaufort County)’s management and human resources employees.”

“An unlawful hostile environment was created and maintained which caused severe emotional distress and humiliation to (Lynch),” the complaint alleged.

Beaufort County did not immediately respond to our request for comment on Lynch’s lawsuit, however in keeping with our open microphone policy this media outlet will publish any and all intelligent responses to our coverage – especially from those implicated in allegedly illegal, unethical or otherwise untoward contact.

Stay tuned for updates as this case makes its way through the federal system …

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THE LAWSUIT …

(U.S. District Court)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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