Lawmakers Allege Abuses of Nepotism Within Recreation Commission

Questions about nepotism at Richland County Rec Commission

Richland County, SC (WLTX) - Our investigation into the Richland County Recreation Commission continues.

After months of back and forth lawmakers called for members of the agency's board of commissioners to resign in August.

Those lawmakers include Senators Joel Lourie, John Courson and Thomas McElveen as well as Representatives Nathan Ballentine, Beth Bernstein, Mary Gail Douglas, Kirkman Finlay, Joe McEachern, Mia McLeod and James Smith.

They claim five of the seven board members have committed or allowed for six wrong doings including the abuse of nepotism.

"All of us that have the honor to serve, we have to take extra steps to make sure, not only that things are right, but that they look right and that they smell right and I think that they've failed miserably in this regard," Senator Lourie said. "We truly believe that nepotism is one of the great acts of malfeasance on this issue. Your Richland County Recreation Commission has a director who has hired directly or indirectly nine people of his family."

Those board members include chairwoman J. Marie Green, vice chairwoman Barbara Mickens, secretary Weston Furgess, George Martin and Joseph Weeks.

News 19 found that records show at least ten of the agency's employees are related to the executive director James Brown III and the chairwoman of the board.

Brown's son made $70,000 as director of recreation until he was suspended without pay after he was arrested on drug and gun charges in a school zone in May. 

Brown's daughter makes at least $42,000 as manager of the technology center. Browns's brother makes at least $46,000 as a site manager. Brown's two nieces work as seasonal employees and another makes about $10,000 as an after school director.  And Brown's son's girlfriend's dad and brother make at least $26,000 as custodians.

Chairwoman J. Marie Green's nephews also work in the agency.

One makes at least $34,000 as an interim facility repairman and the other makes at least $38,000 as a site manager.

Since March multiple lawsuits have been filed against the agency, the executive director, multiple board members and some of it's employees alleging sexual harassment, bribery and hostile treatment.

The FBI, SLED and Richland County Sheriff's Department are investigating possible criminal misconduct.

"We've got to fix this. The current path that the commission is on is unacceptable," Lourie said.

When most of these hires were made the commission had a policy in place that allowed the executive director to hire relatives if he was unable to recruit a qualified person to fill a position. In march the board voted to change the policy and no longer allow that practice.

(© 2016 WLTX)


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