SLED investigating school district after letter details alleged - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

SLED investigating school district after letter details alleged corruption, wasteful spending

(Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS) (Source: Mike DeSumma/WIS)
SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

SLED is now investigating after the Sumter County Sheriff's Office received an anonymous letter alleging possible misconduct by high-ranking Sumter County School District employees as the district struggles with budgetary issues. 

SLED spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the investigation after a spokesman from the sheriff's office said they had forwarded the anonymous letter to state investigators.

"Because we have school resource officers in the schools, Sheriff [Anthony] Dennis felt that it would be a conflict of interest for us to investigate. So he sent it to SLED," sheriff's office spokesman Lt. Ken Bell said.

The four-page letter, obtained by WIS through a source, singles out two high-level district employees and Scott Allan, a consultant hired at $1,000 per day to figure out why the district faced a $6.2 million shortfall.

The letter, which was also delivered to the Sumter County School Board at a recent meeting, alleges one of the causes of the shortfall is items purchased by one of these high-level employees for personal use. A detailed list of items, which includes furniture, portable carports, cookware, rugs, plants, a laser projector, an outdoor water slide, and even groceries, was attached to the letter. 

However, the anonymous writer, who says they are afraid of retribution, also alleges this employee was given a portable classroom once owned by the district to use as a vacation home in Beaufort. The writer says this portable classroom is one of 30 that have "disappeared" in recent years.

The letter then goes on to claim district leaders have attempted to "spin or blame" the budget situation on a previous superintendent who resigned in 2015 even though leaders were allegedly told about the district's dire financial straits in October 2016.

Those financial issues, according to the letter, have not been properly detailed by Allan. The letter alleges he has not provided any "concrete information" on what led to the deficit.

Allan, however, has said the source of the shortfall came from "widespread overspending" and hiring by the district without adequate funding. In addition, several departments for the district were over budgeted, including costs for transportation and substitute teachers.

In January, the board approved $6.8 million in cuts.

The letter says the state Department of Education has visited the district to investigate these allegations. However, DOE officials would not confirm or deny an investigation.

"Our policy is not to comment on ongoing investigations," DOE spokesman Ryan Brown said. 

We reached out to the district for comment, who says they are fully cooperating with the investigation.

"After an anonymous letter was presented to the Board of Trustees at the June 5, 2017 Board meeting, the superintendent handed this matter over to local law enforcement," the statement said.

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