A York County Sheriff’s Office sergeant fired Friday admitted to having sexual encounters with five other deputies while on duty over the past 14 years – some while at training conferences, outside the former Charlotte Knights stadium in Fort Mill, and in an office at the Moss Justice Center in York.
Sgt. Jenny Forsythe, the fired sergeant, was the supervisor of one deputy, Daniel Hamrick, with whom she had sexual encounters from 2011 through this year, sheriff’s office internal investigation records show. Hamrick, who has worked for the sheriff’s office since 2004, told police internal affairs investigators that both he and Forsythe were on duty during several of the encounters.
Both Forsythe and Hamrick were fired, while four other deputies were disciplined.
The investigation that started July 31 was sparked by an anonymous tip to Sheriff Kevin Tolson, who took office in January.
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Capt. Carson Neely, Patrol Sgt. James “Buddy” Brown and Sgt. William Richardson were suspended without pay for two weeks, starting Aug. 5. Training Lt. Brian Boling has been demoted to a lower rank, Master Deputy II.
Internal investigations records provided by the sheriff’s office, at the request of The Herald, show all six deputies admitted to the violations when they were questioned by the sheriff’s office professional standards bureau and other top administrators, including Tolson.
Forsythe started working at the York County Sheriff’s Office in June 2003, said sheriff’s spokesman Trent Faris – the year of the first reported encounter.
Forsythe admitted to multiple sexual encounters with Neely from 2003 to 2007, with Boling in 2007, with Brown from 2010 to 2011, with Hamrick from 2012 to 2017 and three sexual encounters with Richardson, records show.
Forsythe admitted during the investigation that some of the encounters with each man occurred while one or both were on duty, records show.
Tolson, who took office in January 2017, said he took into account the rank of each deputy and the time period of the conduct. The deputies who continued the misconduct in 2017, after Tolson took office, were fired.
“The harshest discipline was dispensed to those who violated policy and public trust while I have been sheriff,” Tolson said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “I showed leniency to those deputies whose conduct occurred years, even decades ago, but make no mistake, this conduct will not be tolerated in this agency on my watch.”
The statement says the inquiry began when Tolson “received an anonymous complaint that several deputies at the Sheriff’s Office were involved in improper conduct on duty.”
Tolson immediately ordered an internal investigation.
“The results of this investigation are very troubling, and cast a dark cloud over the York County Sheriff’s Office and its reputation as a professional organization,” Tolson said in the statement.
Tolson added: “The actions of these officers have undermined the public’s confidence in our organization and required swift and serious action.”
Tolson declined further comment.
South Carolina Rep. Bruce Bryant, R-York, who is Tolson’s father-in-law, served as York County Sheriff from 1996 to 2016.
Bryant suspended three deputies for violating department policy in 2000. The action by Bryant came after a woman who had a relationship with one of the deputies filed a complaint, alleging police misconduct.
After The Herald filed a lawsuit to force the release of personnel records, the S.C. Court of Appeals ruled the records should be released because the Sheriff’s Office is a public body. The records showed three deputies were suspended for engaging in activities while on duty that could cause them to neglect their responsibilities.
Bryant said he didn’t know about any of the sexual encounters revealed Wednesday – some of which started in 2003 – during his years as sheriff.
“I think everybody who knows me, knows what kind of stance I took on those types of situations,” Bryant said. “York County Sheriff’s Office, we did not approve of adulterous affairs and had I known, action would have been taken.”
Bryant said all the deputies disciplined were employees while he served as sheriff.
“Every one of them did their job, were great employees, and I’m just sad to know that this was going on,” Bryant said.
Boling, who was demoted to the lower rank after working for the sheriff’s office since 1999, admitted to having a sexual relationship with Forsythe for four or five months in 2007, in an internal investigation interview.
Boling said he had a sexual encounter with Forsythe after a Charlotte Knights baseball game “on the tailgate of his personal truck in a secluded place,” records show. The record says “Boling could not remember whether he was working at the ballgame.”
Boling also admitted to staying with Forsythe for a week in a hotel room during training conferences on two seperate occasions, the records say.
Neely, who has worked for the sheriff’s office since 1998, was suspended for two weeks without pay. Neely admitted to sexual encounters with Forsythe between 2003 and 2007, during which time he held the ranks of detective and sergeant.
Neely admitted in the internal investigation inverview – the only interview conducted by Tolson – that one of the sexual encounters took place in an office at the Moss Justice Center, where the sheriff’s office is based. Neely also admitted that Forsythe, while on duty, had driven him to his house after he had consumed alcohol, the record says.
Brown, a York County deputy since 2005, admitted to about 10 sexual encounters with Forsythe between 2011 and 2015, while both were on duty, during the internal investigation.
Richardson, a deputy since 2002, said he and Forsythe had three sexual encounters between 2002 and 2003, but he could not remember whether they were on duty, according to internal investigation records.
Although deputies all work at the pleasure of the sheriff, they also are York County employees.
Top York County officials praised Tolson’s actions in dealing with misconduct.
Britt Blackwell, chairman of the York County Council, said that he trusts Tolson to do the right thing to keep the public trust.
Blackwell said that based on what he knows, Tolson acted to make sure that the public receives the highest standards of professionalism.
“I trust everyone involved handled this the way it needed to be handled,” Blackwell said. “In government, we work for the people.”
Bill Shanahan, York County manager, said that Tolson’s action should bolster the public’s view of the sheriff as a leader who demands accountability from employees. Shanahan said his office was not part of the investigation, but he is “very proud of our sheriff.”
“Sheriff Tolson has been on the job for just several months, and something happened that needed to be investigated and he took action,” Shanahan said. “This speaks volumes about Sheriff Tolson's character.”
“This shouldn’t change the perception of the sheriff's office or the county at all,” Shanahan said.
Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068