RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A Richland County Grand Jury has returned an indictment against Richland County Recreation Commission Executive Director James Brown, III.
Brown was indicted on Oct. 12, 2016 on one count of Misconduct in Office.
The indictment alleges that from 2012 to 2015, Brown used his position as Executive Director to coerce and attempt to coerce female employees into having sexual contact with him.
Brown requested and was granted a paid leave of absence in July as the commission under Brown's leadership came under fire for alleged malfeasance and the filing of five lawsuits against the commission.
The investigation was a collaborative effort by the Richland County Sheriff's Office, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Office.
The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General's Office.
Attorney General Wilson stressed all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
The offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Following the news of the indictment, members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation commented as follows:
Senator Joel Lourie:
"Today's development is an important step in fixing the horrific problems at the recreation commission. For a year now we have been hearing horror stories from current and previous employees about the way they have been treated by the director. These desperate calls for help have been irresponsibly ignored by the Commission. Today's action only strengthens our resolve that the five commissioners who support Mr. Brown need to resign or be removed by Governor Haley immediately. Also, I want to personally tell the employees of the Recreation Commission and the citizens of Richland County that you deserve better, and it is my hope that members of this delegation will do everything possible to quickly restore trust and accountability with this agency."
Senator John Courson:
"Senator Lourie and I, in a bipartisan manner, introduced legislation this year to turn the governance of the Recreation Commission over to Richland County Council. They are proving funding and they should have the appointment powers of the commission. I intend to refile the legislation in the next legislative session beginning in January of 2017."
Representative Beth Bernstein:
"As a woman and mother of 2 daughters, I am appalled that the women employed at RCRC have been subjected to such egregious and disgusting conduct by Director James Brown. This is one step in the right direction and a small victory for the many women who have been vocal about the inappropriate conduct at the commission and other victims of sexual harassment. Since Director Brown has been indicted, the Governor should utilize her authority to remove Mr. Brown along with the Board Commissioners who were complicit by failing to intervene once they had notice."
Representative Mia McLeod:
"As a parent and citizen of Richland county, this is beyond embarrassing. It makes me angry and disgusted. No woman should ever have to deal with this, especially from her employer. My hope, is that all who are involved will move quickly to restore the faith and trust of our community. Previously, I stated that the Commissioners, regardless of guilt or innocence, would always operate under a cloud of suspicion unless they took decisive action. Once again, I ask them to take decisive action now, for the sake of our children and community."
Representative Joe McEachern:
"This is about the terrible mismanagement of the Recreation Commission from both the director and the five board members that support him. I hope Governor Haley will take quick action to remove them so we can go about the business of cleaning up their mess. The people of Richland County are counting on us."
Representative James Smith:
"The news of Mr. Brown's indictment adds further support to our request to Governor Haley that she take action to remove the five Recreation Commissioners who voted to support Director Brown's continued employment."
Representative Nathan Ballentine:
"This is a positive step for taxpayers that want answers. I hope all members of this delegation will take this opportunity to insist upon the truth in this matter and join our efforts to clean house."
Senator Thomas McElveen:
"It is the responsibility of the Richland County Recreation Commission to deliver services to the people of Richland County as efficiently and productively as possible, as well as to be good stewards of the funding provided to the Commission. I hope that today's development will be the start of eliminating the turmoil and rampant corruption that clearly exists within the administration of the Commission, so that employees can focus on their jobs without the distractions and anxieties that have accompanied the lack of leadership at the top. Hopefully today will mark the beginning of wholesale change within the administration at the Richland County Recreation Commission, so that they can get back to the business of serving the needs of the people."