Some Richland legislators want solicitor to investigate Recreation Commission

Four members of the Richland County legislative delegation now are asking Sheriff Leon Lott to turn over an investigation of the Richland County Recreation Commission to 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson.

In a letter sent Friday to Lott, Sen. John Scott, Sen. Darrell Jackson, Rep. Jimmy Bales and Rep. Christopher Hart ask Lott to engage the Solicitor’s Office in investigating any possible criminal activities of the legislative-controlled Recreation Commission.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks against the commission; its director, James Brown III; and some of its Legislature-appointed board members, alleging sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviors.

Two weeks ago, Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Beth Bernstein and Rep. James Smith, asked the sheriff’s department to investigate the commission in light of further recent reports of possible criminal activity.

“We think it is a more appropriate channel” to have the solicitor investigate, Jackson told The State. “Our goal is just to get down to the bottom of this. If something criminal has happened, then we need to take action. ... If there are no criminal activities, then we hope we will put this to rest.

Lourie, Bernstein and Smith also called for the commission to be placed under the authority of County Council, which funds the department, rather than the legislative delegation, in the interest of transparency and accountability.

Jackson said he has not taken a position on whether to transfer responsibility over the commission to County Council. In the past, he said, he has supported giving council that responsibility.

County Council members say they plan to ask the attorney general’s opinion on whether they can take control of the commission. Lourie has said he plans to introduce legislation to that effect.

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.