What's Going On With The Recreation Commission?

Chuck Ringwalt explains the problem with the Richland County Recreation Commission.

Richland County, SC (WLTX) - The Richland County Recreation Commission is responsible for managing the parks and recreation programs throughout the county, but they've found themselves in a lot of legal trouble this year.

In March the commission's Head of Financial Operations, Andrea Fripp James, filed a lawsuit against the agency, two board members, the Executive Director and the Human Resources Director.

The lawsuit alleges that Executive Director James Brown III made sexual comments and innuendoes toward her. It also accuses board members J. Marie Green, Barbara Mickens and the Head of Human Resources David Stringer of hostile treatment, defamation and intimidation.

Between that time and May, four other lawsuits were filed by Assistant Executive Director, Kenya Bryant, the Head of Facility Operations, Taurus Lewis, Director of Procurement, Anthony Cooper and the Network Administrator, Kenneth Baker.

Some of the lawsuits also included Chief of Staff, Tara Dickerson.

Brown's son, James Brown Jr. was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, methamphetamine and ecstasy with the intent to distribute each of those drugs in a school zone and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

Brown Jr. is the Director of Recreation and is suspended without pay.

An investigation into the commission was launched by the FBI, SLED and Richland County Sheriff's Department.

This past summer...James was placed on paid leave, Bryant was fired, Lewis was fired, Baker had already been fired prior to his lawsuit.

And lawmakers called for the removal of the Executive Director and five of the seven members of the board because of their support of the director.

They said the board allowed for six acts of malfeasance including a hostile work environment, nepotism, irresponsible compensation, allegations of sexual harassment, lack of oversight and excessive litigation costs.

Since the agency is a special purpose district it consists of a Board of Commissioners, a voluntary position.

Lawmakers only recommend members of the board. The governor is the one who ultimately appoints them and is the only one with the power to remove them. The county can only control the amount of funding the agency receives.

Brown placed himself on administrative paid leave until this month when he was indicted by a grand jury on a misconduct in office charge, arrested for intimidating a witness, suspended without pay and ultimately retiring from his position.

Governor Haley also met with lawmakers to discuss her authority and whether she should remove those five board members.

She asked for more information on the matter from the commission.

On Friday the commission dropped off that information, but without a key component.

They did not provide the investigative report done by an outside attorney on the original claims of sexual harassment made by the the Head of Financial Operations.

We reached out to the Governor's office for a response.

They said legal council will look over what is and what isn't included in the nearly 500 page document before making any decisions.

Of course we will be keeping you updated when Governor Haley makes her decision and as new developments come up.

(© 2016 WLTX)


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