(Richland County, SC) A third member of the Richland County Recreation Commission Board stepped down late Tuesday afternoon. This is the latest development, coming after a lawsuit was filed in March shed light on issues at the commission. That lawsuit was followed by four others, against the tax payer funded commission, the director and or at least one or more of the board members; the governor requesting documentation from the board and not getting all that she asked for.
The governor's panel of three wantsthe board to answer why they kep the director, James Brown, III, in position for so long, and why they looked the other way in allegations against him.
Lawmakers called for the resignation of the board back in August. Just late Tuesday, a third board member George Martin sent his resignation letter to the Governor citing family issues for his departure effective immediately.
Two board members have already stepped down.
In his resignation letter, Wilbert Lewis says quote, "My actions as an individual board member... are a matter of public record... The records reflect my minority position on many issues... and my efforts to do what was right for the employees and the Commission."
Weston Furgess, Jr. stepped down earlier this month as well.
The executive Director, James Brown, III retired shortly after he was arrested and charged with intimidating a witness.
The governors three person panel will hear what the remaining four board members have to say for themselves as to why they should *not be removed. They are Chair Woman, J. Marie Green, Vice Chair, Barbara Mickens, Joseph Weeks and Thomas Clark.
The panel is seeking explanations to three different issues. The first, that the board neglected to review nepotism complaints involving the Executive Director, James Brown, III. The second, that the board neglected to make Proper compensation decisions against Brown. And the third, the board neglected to investigate claims of harrassment, retaliation and intimidation, all made against Brown.
Representative Beth Bernstein (D) is one of the lawmakers who has been calling for the board to be fired. She says this is new territory because the Richland County Delegation has the duty of appointing the Board, but not the ability to fire them. That is why the Governor had to intervene. She says, "What I would like to see is that all the reamining members resign, so that we can start with a clean slate on December first."
Those remaining board members could show up to the hearing with resignation letters in hand. They could try to explain why they should remain on the board or if they do not show up at all, the Governor has said that they will be removed from their position on December first.
Bernstein says part of the reason the panel was convened was to give the remaining board members a chance to state their case for remaining on the board. She has filed new legislation to streamline who governs a county recreation commission and who has the right to appoint and fire board members. That legislation will be addressed next legislative session.
As it stands now, If the entire board were to be removed/resign, the state lawmakers from Richland County would appoint an entirely new board. Then that new board would appoint the new director. But of course all that depends on what happens in the hearing on Wednesday.