Ten Richland County legislators demanded Wednesday that five members of the troubled Richland County Recreation Commission’s board resign, threatening to remove them if they don’t.
Meanwhile, documents released to those legislators show the Recreation Commission has at least 10 employees who are related or closely connected to embattled director James Brown III, his son, James A Brown; or board chair J. Marie Green. At least four of those relatives have received raises of more than $8,000 since being hired, documents show.
Lawmakers said Wednesday they found six “acts of malfeasance” – including “blatant abuses of nepotism” – by the board while looking into recent turmoil at the commission.
The legislators said they will give board members time to quit but will fire them if necessary.
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“I regret that we didn’t step in earlier,” said Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland. “This is a failed structure where we appoint commissioners, County Council funds them and they’re accountable to nobody.”
State and federal law enforcement agencies have opened probes into allegations of public corruption at the commission.
Current and former Rec Commission employees also have filed civil lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and other improper behavior by director Brown, who has denied any wrongdoing, and some staffers and board members.
S.C. law gives Gov. Nikki Haley – not the Richland County legislators – the power to suspend them if they are indicted on a crime involving moral turpitude. She appoints members on the recommendation of the delegation.
But Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, said the legislators have avenues to remove the members, if need be. He would not say what those avenues are. “This only ends with their resignation,” Smith said.
The six alleged acts of wrongdoing that legislators cited are:
▪ Disregard of a hostile work environment for employees
▪ Blatant nepotism
▪ Approval of irresponsible pay for Brown – he makes $151,800 a year
▪ Multiple allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct
▪ Lack of effective oversight
▪ Excessive litigation and costs
The legislators asked for the immediate resignations of board chair J. Marie Green and vice chair Barbara Mickens, both also named as defendants in civil lawsuits; board secretary Weston Furgess Jr.; George Martin Jr.; and Joseph Weeks.
Board members Thomas Clark and Wilbert Lewis, who have been more critical of director Brown, were not asked to resign.
The Richland County delegation has been split on how to respond to the recent turmoil. Ten of the 17 delegation members have called for resignations. But others say legislators should stay out of the matter until law enforcement completes its investigations.
The lawmakers who signed the resignation demand Wednesday were Democrats Lourie and state Sen. Thomas McElveen, and state Reps. Beth Bernstein, Mary Gail Douglas, Joe McEachern, Mia McLeod and James Smith; and Republicans state Sen. John Courson, and Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Kirkman Finlay.
Richland County legislators on Wednesday released documents they received as part of an open-records request to the county’s Recreation Commission. The commission’s response showed the county-funded agency has at least 10 employees who are related or connected to executive director James Brown III; his son, James A. Brown; or board chair J. Marie Green. Several have received significant raises since their hiring.
Original hire date
Title when hired
Title at promotion
Pay at last promotion
James Brown III
July 31, 1985
Nov. 3, 2010
On voluntary leave of absence with pay
James A. Brown
Aug. 5, 2002
June 11, 2016
Director of recreation
Suspended without pay
Jan. 9, 2011
July 1, 2013
March 19, 2010
assistant park manager
Sept. 13, 2015
Previously employed 1995-98 as assistant park manager
June 4, 2015
Seasonal part-time employee
June 4, 2015
Seasonal part-time employee
June 7, 2010
May 24, 2015
March 1, 2015
Feb. 11, 2015
Aug. 24, 2009
Building and grounds worker
Oct. 1, 2015
Interim facility repairman
April 8, 2008
Assistant park manager
Sept. 9, 2013
SOURCE: Richland County Recreation Commission