Columbia's economic development director fired after embezzlement arrest

Wayne Gregory, Jr. (Source: Georgetown County Sheriff's Office)
Wayne Gregory, Jr. (Source: Georgetown County Sheriff's Office)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The City of Columbia's economic development director has been fired after being arrested in Richland County for embezzling approximately $100,000 in public money while he was employed in Georgetown County.

Wayne Gregory, Jr. was booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center just before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Bond was set at $5,000 during a hearing Wednesday morning.

Gregory was held at the jail for the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office. He was then transferred to the Lowcountry to await a bond hearing.

Prior to his employment with the City of Columbia, he served as economic development director in Georgetown County.

According to a news release from the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, the administrator's office contacted sheriff's investigators approximately a month ago concerning a number of fraudulent purchases allegedly made by Gregory.

A subsequent investigation by the sheriff's office revealed that between January 2010 and September 2013, Gregory used a Georgetown County purchasing card to misappropriate public funds, investigators said.

Investigators have determined that during his employment, Gregory was able to embezzle more than $100,000 from Georgetown County and use those funds for personal use, according to the sheriff's office.

Georgetown County Sheriff's investigators traveled to Columbia Tuesday to and meet with
Gregory at his residence at his home. Investigators, with assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Columbia Police Department executed a search warrant at Gregory's apartment.

As a result of the investigation, Gregory was arrested and charged with embezzlement of public funds over $10,000.

Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson fired Gregory Tuesday.

"It became clear that a termination had to be imposed upon Mr. Gregory, which we did," said Wilson.

Wilson said a review of the department will also be conducted.

"We really don't anticipate any issues, but just out of due diligence, and an abundance of caution, I feel it is necessary, as well as my chief financial officer, for us to just do some thorough review," said Wilson.

Wilson also sent WIS the following statement:

"I was notified earlier today, by Acting Police Chief Melron Kelly, of a situation involving an employee, Wayne Gregory.  Acting Chief Kelly informed me that he had received a call from SLED officials regarding the pending arrest of Mr. Gregory.  I then notified appropriate City officials to make them aware of the situation.  As the City Manager, I want to emphasize that we are ready to comply completely with SLED officials and any other law enforcement officials in any way necessary.

Although we are concerned about this situation, we are moving forward to ensure that the operations of the Economic Development Department continue to function in an efficient manner.  Mr. Gregory was terminated today.  He was previously serving as the Economic Development Director. 

As of today, Ryan Coleman will be the Acting Economic Development Director and will serve in that role until further notice.  Mr. Coleman serves as the City of Columbia's Development and Business Manager in the Economic Development Department.  Mr. Coleman has been employed with the City of Columbia since 2006 and has held previous positions in the Office of Business Opportunities as the Small Business Liaison and in the Economic Development Department as a Business Liaison.

We will also work together, as a team, to ensure that this incident will not impact the continuation of service provision and we remain focused on the important economic development initiatives within our city.

As it relates to the investigation and arrest of Mr. Gregory, I was not contacted by SLED officials, or any other law enforcement agency, at any time during Mr. Gregory's tenure with the City of Columbia.  Mr. Gregory was arrested today for allegations regarding his conduct while employed with Georgetown County. Based on the allegations, I have directed my staff to conduct a full internal review of all Economic Development operations conducted during Mr. Gregory's employment with the City of Columbia."

Gregory was selected as the city's economic development director in September, 2013.

"Wayne is a proven leader in his field with a wealth of experiences from the Upstate to the

Low Country and he is a great addition to the leadership team as we work to Build Columbia," said City Manager Teresa Wilson.

Wayne is expected to have a bond hearing Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.