Santiago vindicated, to an extent, in FBI, SLED probe - - Columbia, South Carolina

Santiago vindicated, to an extent, in FBI, SLED probe


Vindication -- at least to some extent -- appears to be the word for Columbia Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago as a SLED and FBI investigative report cleared him of any corruption allegations levied against him by former Columbia Police Department Capt. Dave Navarro.

"Today is a day I've been looking forward to as far as closure in this situation, these allegations that were brought against me," said Santiago. 

The allegations were pretty off-the-wall and improbable-sounding. While there were some hints of foot-dragging by both of the warring parties, this was a good day for the city's interim police chief.

The results of the report were revealed by Thirteenth Solicitor Walt Wilkins, who said Navarro's allegations of being asked by Santiago to plant drugs and a weapon on Assistant City Manager Alison Baker lacked evidence for a prosecution.

However, investigators said Wilkins did find reason to believe Santiago had not been fully forthcoming with them. Santiago says that claim left him puzzled. 

"Obviously, I was represented by council as well, but all the questions that were asked of me, I did my best to explain. There were a wide variety of questions, but I felt that I answered those and they should have been more than clear," said Santiago. 

Santiago and those who wanted him to be named permanent chief have been frustrated for months that his candidacy has been clouded by the allegations. He says not just him -- but the entire department has been hurt.

"These officers, I can imagine as their wearing this uniform and they put this badge on, that they're thinking about all the scrutiny and all the criticisms that's coming across. Whether they're encountering people on the street or in the media. So it can't be healthy for a department and it can't be very positive for morale," said Santiago.  

Wilkins says there were also indications that Navarro was also not entirely cooperative in offering information during the investigations.

Santiago may have been cleared, but it appears too late to affect the search for permanent chief. He automatically returns to deputy chief once the slot vacated by Randy Scott is filled by City Manager Teresa Wilson.

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