An employee of the highly scrutinized Richland County Recreation Commission who is one of several recently to sue the agency was fired this week.
It’s the most recent plot point in a continuing narrative characterized by inflammatory accusations, numerous lawsuits and investigations by local, state and federal agencies launched in recent months into the commission and its executive director, James Brown III.
Anthony Cooper, the commission’s bond director, was fired by the agency Wednesday, according to Cooper’s attorney, J. Lewis Cromer. Cooper’s termination letter cited him as “placing documents in the Dumpster in violation of a current litigation hold,” Cromer said in a statement Thursday.
But Cooper, Cromer said, had outwardly accused higher-ups in the commission of shredding documents that might have been the subject of investigations.
Never miss a local story.
Cooper’s lawsuit, filed April 20, accuses commission director Brown of having “created and fostered a manifestly hostile environment at the Richland County Recreation Commission through bullying, threats, and intimidation as well as erratic and unpredictable behavior to the point that the entire operation of the Recreation Commission is in jeopardy ... .”
Director Brown ‘created and fostered a manifestly hostile environment ... through bullying, threats, and intimidation...’
Anthony Cooper’s lawsuit
The lawsuit names as defendants the Recreation Commission as well as, individually, Brown, chief of staff Tara Dickerson and human resources director David Stringer. It alleges defamation by the commission and Brown and civil conspiracy by Brown, Dickerson and Stringer.
Cromer said “it is clear” that Cooper was fired in retaliation for his lawsuit and his “constant opposition to Mr. Brown’s inappropriate and illegal behavior.”
“The bottom line is this termination is improper,” Cromer said.
Efforts by The State newspaper to reach Brown for comment Thursday were unsuccessful. But in a recent statement, Brown told the newspaper that he looks forward to “being cleared of these false criminal allegations” and to the “restoration of the public’s full confidence in me and the Richland County Recreation Commission.”
Stringer said Thursday evening that “RCRC does not comment on matters in litigation or personnal matters.”
Brown and his agency have been the subjects of numerous lawsuits and widely reported accusations from multiple sources in recent months, including allegations of sexual harassment, bribery, nepotism and wrongful termination.
The commission’s board is scheduled to meet next on July 18.
Last week, the Richland County legislative delegation, whose members appoint the commission members, voted 9-5 to recommend the commission suspend Brown with pay while investigations into him and the agency are ongoing.
The board does not have to heed the delegation’s recommendation. The board has the sole authority to hire and fire the agency’s director.
Efforts by The State newspaper to reach board chairwoman J. Marie Green on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.