The city of Mauldin has hired a former Richland County official who resigned in 2017 after facing backlash over a suicide comment he made during a meeting with Richland County EMS employees.
Kevin Bronson, the former assistant administrator for public safety for Richland County, was alleged to have told Richland County EMS employees that they should quit or kill themselves if they were unhappy with their jobs, WIS-TV reported at the time.
In an interview Monday with The Greenville News, Bronson denied using those words, but admitted he used “figurative language” involving suicide.
Bronson started Monday as Mauldin’s interim director of public works, a department that has had a history of upheaval in recent years. The last five directors either resigned or were terminated, and a former employee sued the department in 2017, alleging he was pushed out after exposing misconduct by other employees.
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During a meeting in August 2017, Bronson told EMS workers he had received a list of grievances about working conditions at the agency from a former employee there, WIS-TV reported at the time.
“I said something to the effect of ‘with all that was wrong, I don’t know how he didn’t kill himself,’” Bronson told The News Tuesday.
Bronson said he apologized at the meeting for the comment, and that subsequent stories about the incident were “inaccurate.”
“The premise of it, that I was that crass to employees, is contextually wrong,” Bronson said.
The News has requested a copy of any video or audio tapes from the 2017 EMS meeting from Richland County.
Bronson also reportedly apologized in an email to EMS staff following the incident, saying his remarks had been inappropriate and insensitive, according to The State newspaper.
The Greenville News has requested a copy of that email from Richland County.
Then-Richland County administrator Gerald Seals also condemned Bronson’s comments a day after they were reported, and said he would be disciplined, according to The State.
Mauldin city administrator Brandon Madden declined to answer questions on the phone Monday about Bronson’s hiring, requesting they be provided via email so he could respond with an official statement rather than answering “off the cuff.”
Madden’s office later emailed a news release announcing Bronson’s hiring, but it did not address the Richland County controversy.
Madden did not answer further repeated questions about why Bronson was tapped for the position, in light of the circumstances surrounding his resignation.
Bronson, who worked for Richland County from December 2015 through August 2017, has also held several other municipal positions throughout the state, according to the release. His previous experience includes interim public works director and assistant city administrator for Rock Hill, city administrator for Camden and assistant city administrator for Orangeburg.
Madden also previously worked for Richland County, from 2013 through 2018, overlapping Bronson’s years there. Madden joined the city of Mauldin this past December.
Mauldin’s public works director position has been vacant since last September, when the city council voted to “release” Gary Woodson from the role. The council gave no official reason for that decision.
“There were issues and concerns and that resulted in the release — that much should be obvious,” Councilman Scott Crosby said at the time. “It needed to happen or else we wouldn’t have done it.”
“Active recruitment” continues for a permanent public works director, according to the release.
Bronson said he’s aware of the department’s issues that have been reported in The Greenville News, and said he wants to help Mauldin find a long-term public works director. He said he’s not interested in the job on a permanent basis.
He anticipates serving three to six months as interim director, after which he said he intends to return to the private sector.
“I’ve done my time,” Bronson said. “I feel like I’ve served the public realm, and I’m ready to work in the private sector now.”