Former Chapin town clerk Adrienne Thompson was fined $750 for hiring her son to move furniture at Town Hall and settled a defamation lawsuit against the town’s mayor for $150,000.
The outcome ends conflict roiling the Lexington County community of 1,900 residents since Thompson was fired in mid-2014 by Mayor Skip Wilson for what he said was misuse of public money.
Her Nov. 30 settlement with the State Ethics Commission includes a public reprimand on top of the fine that could have been as much as $6,000.
Thompson’s son earned nearly $2,000 after she hired him three times with the approval of town leaders two years ago, the commission’s decision said.
The violation was inadvertent and ended when she was told it isn’t allowed under state ethics standards, the decision said.
“Adrienne did not realize such conduct constituted a technical ethics violation,” said her lawyer, Paul Porter. “She was simply trying get the new Town Hall operational and was upholding the town’s policy on hiring which did not prohibit the use of relative-owned businesses.”
The matter was one of a series of alleged misconduct that Wilson cited in first suspending and then firing Thompson from a post overseeing town records and finances that she held for 13 years. He accused Thompson of irregularities and violations in recording transactions, financial misreporting and excessive and unauthorized spending as well as the nepotism that led ethics officials to fine her.
Most of Wilson’s claims centered on spending to equip Town Hall that opened as he took office in 2014 as the town’s first new mayor in 32 years.
Wilson disagrees with the decision by insurers to pay Thompson $150,000 to settle her claim of defamation.
“It sends a negative message to our citizens that we were willing to pay Mrs. Thompson because we were in the wrong, which we were not,” Wilson said in a Dec. 15 letter to state Insurance Reserve Fund officials. “Mrs. Thompson was rightfully relieved of her duties for poor stewardship of town resources, inadequate job performance and insubordination.”
A State Law Enforcement Division investigation requested by town leaders into Thompson’s oversight of town finances ended with no charges, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.
It’s up to the five-member Town Council to decide if an audit of her spending decisions is warranted as a further safeguard, Wilson said.
Several changes made since her ouster have put town bookkeeping in good shape, he said. Wilson owns a financial advice service in addition to his part-time role as mayor.
Thompson, now retired, “is happy to have moved on from these allegations and she wishes Chapin residents the best going forward,” Porter said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483