EXCLUSIVE: Former police chief alleges Chapin slandered him

/tflach@thestate.com January 4, 2013 

— Former Chapin police chief David Rodgers says town officials are slandering him in saying he engaged in improper conduct with young girls and stole up to $5,000 from the Lexington County community.

Rodgers says he did nothing illegal while working in Chapin for 10 years, the last five as chief, according to a Dec. 28 lawsuit and a statement from his attorney.

His lawsuit provides the first clue to his surprise departure in August 2011 when he left after five years as chief under threat of dismissal, saying then it was “without admitting any allegations of improper actions.”

Rodgers is seeking unspecified damages from the municipality and town clerk Adrienne Thompson for what he says are false claims that he “preyed on young women, stole thousands of dollars from Chapin and engaged in other despicable and criminal activities.”

The former chief wants his name cleared, his attorney, Ben Mabry, said Thursday.

“Certainly if a public official engaged in this type of conduct, one would reasonably expect he would have been prosecuted to the hilt long ago,” Mabry said. “This has not occurred because Mr. Rodgers has committed no crime.”

Mayor Stan Shealy declined comment, including whether town leaders asked authorities to investigate Rodgers’ actions outlined in the lawsuit.

Chapin officials didn’t ask county deputies to investigate the situation, sheriff’s spokesman Maj. John Allard said.

As part of the resignation agreement, Town Council members agreed that officials would not make adverse statements about Rodgers.

But his lawsuit says that pledge was broken, specifically by Thompson.

Thompson, who has no role in hiring and firing town police officers, said Thursday she was goaded into statements last month by a private investigator claiming to be looking into Rodgers’ background for unspecified employment.

The claims attributed to her in the lawsuits are “exaggerations of what I said,” she said.

Thompson said she told the investigator that the town “wouldn’t hire (Rodgers) again and it escalated from there.”

The lawsuit accuses Thompson of saying falsely that Rodgers should not be around young girls because he might endanger them. She claimed that Rodgers would not give traffic tickets to teenage girls if they sent him pictures of a sexual nature, it says.

That statement is false, Rodgers’ lawsuit says.

In addition, the suit says Rodgers was improperly accused of stealing up to $5,000 from the town, making false statements on his job application, being unable to take tests, having “very poor grammar skills’’ and “barely did any work” while chief.

Details of the alleged theft are not spelled out in the lawsuit.

But the lawsuit says that Thompson falsely claimed Rodgers destroyed his computer, cellphone and other items that could have proven the allegations related to teenage girls before leaving the town payroll.

“All we had left was hearsay,” she is quoted as saying in the lawsuit.

Thompson said she apparently was taped by the investigator.

“I was set up,” she said. “That’s my problem — I try to be so helpful to people.”

Mabry said that he didn’t send the investigator on behalf of Rodgers and that the claims by town officials also occurred before the latest exchange involving Thompson.

Rodgers is the second police chief overseeing the town force of six who left under a cloud in the past seven years.

Reach Fretwell at (803) 771-8537. Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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