Lexington County (WLTX) -- The former mayor of Gaston and two other town officials were arrested Thursday morning amid charges of misconduct in office.
SLED agents charged 60-year-old James Larry Sharpe with misconduct in office and obtaining signature or property under false pretenses at a value of $5,000 or more.
Fifty-year-old former Town Administrator Jennifer Knight Poole of Gaston, and her daughter, 25-year-old Town Clerk of Court Jessica Elizabeth Poole, are each facing the same charges Sharpe faces.
Each official was booked at the Lexington County jail.
SLED investigators say that Sharpe, as the mayor of Gaston, knowingly took checks and money from the town in excess of $5,000. Agents say Jennifer Poole, as the town administrator, signed off on the checks in an effort to "cheat or defraud the Town of Gaston of public funds."
Mike Gantt has lived in Gaston for over 20 years, so he's seen most of the changes that the town has undergone. But lately, he says, it seems like it's been mostly turmoil.
"The mayor was getting health insurance paid by the town - him and his wife - when they were not entitled to it under our bylaws... We found in the process of that - when he left - the town was flat broke. There was absolutely no money there. We had to lose our police department and everything," he says, of their troubles.
While most arrests of such high-up town officials, former or otherwise, would be seen as a burden to a town, these residents knew it was a possibility, and are now ready to move forward.
"Maybe it's now time that we can get rid of these fractions and start coming together and lead this community into a more positive role," he says.
Gantt wants to see his home grow into something better - and already sees that happening under the Mayor Pro-Tem Troy Bivens. "I think he's done a wonderful job so far of trying to answer the questions of the town, and trying to bring something forward," he says.
Ultimately, Gantt hopes the arrests will give the town a fresh start. "We have plenty of land, with the farmer's market coming, Gaston's gonna grow, and it's gonna grow very rapidly," he says.