Columbia government

Columbia business recruiter charged with misspending public funds at previous job

cleblanc@thestate.comApril 1, 2014 

— Columbia’s newly hired business recruiter has been charged with embezzling public money while he held the same post in Georgetown County and has been fired by the Capital City.

Wayne Gregory, 36, was in Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on Tuesday, awaiting transfer to the coastal community for a bond hearing, according to a news release from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office. He was being held on a charge of embezzling public funds over $10,000, according to the release.

Columbia city manager Teresa Wilson said she has ordered an internal review of Gregory’s work in Columbia because of the accusations out of Georgetown.

The Georgetown sheriff filed the charges on Tuesday. The allegations are that for 3½ years during Gregory’s time as that county’s economic development director, he used a county purchasing card to embezzle more than $100,000, according to Georgetown investigators.

The case grew from complaints about a month ago from the Georgetown County administrator’s office about a number of fraudulent purchases made by Gregory.

Sheriff’s investigators determined that between January 2010 and September 2013, when Gregory left for the Columbia job, he converted the money to his own uses. He did that by getting prepaid gift cards, which he intentionally tried to disguise as legitimate purchases, according to the warrant.

The sheriff’s office has yet to report how the money was spent.

Gregory was a key hire for Wilson in September to lead a renewed effort to attract more business and jobs to the city.

On Tuesday, she announced his firing in a prepared statement.

As of today, Wilson wrote, Ryan Coleman will be the acting economic development director and will serve in that role until further notice.

Coleman is the city’s development and business manager in the Economic Development Department, she wrote.

Gregory’s salary was $110,000, Columbia’s personnel director said Tuesday. But his incentive package allowed him to earn an extra 5 percent if he met specified standards. It was unclear Tuesday if Gregory qualified for any extra income from Columbia.

The State Law Enforcement Division helped the sheriff’s office in the case, but the extent of that assistance was not immediately available, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.

Georgetown County administrator Sel Hemingway could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach said the county is reviewing its policies for the use of its credit cards and has hired a consultant to see if they can be strengthened.

“We are taking this matter very seriously,” she said.

Georgetown County Council chairman Johnny Morant said council members have been asked not to speak about the case.

“Even though he’s been arrested,” Morant said, “the investigation has not been concluded yet.”

Broach said she has no reason to believe that investigators will find more alleged embezzlement or that more charges might be expected.

Gregory also has worked in Greenville County’s development corporation, Columbia officials said at the time of his hiring here. His college degrees include one in government and political science from Furman and a master’s in public administration from Clemson.

As project manager for the Greenville Area Development Corp., Gregory made presentations to commissions, civic groups and the general public. He assisted with projects that gathered at least 2,671 jobs in Greenville County, Tommy Edwards, then-Georgetown county administrator, told the Sun News of Myrtle Beach when Gregory was hired in Georgetown during the summer of 2005.

Georgetown was experiencing a population boom during the mid-2000s and was attracting more jobs each year. But the county had struggled with double-digit unemployment figures for a few years during the early part of that decade.

In Columbia, Gregory replaced former economic development director Jim Gambrell, who had served in that post since 1993 until his retirement last year.

 

The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News contributed to this report. Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service