Richland recreation commission director taking leave amid investigations

James Brown III
James Brown III

The embattled director of the Richland County Recreation Commission is taking a paid leave of absence amid state and federal law enforcement investigations into his office.

James Brown III requested and was granted the voluntary leave on Friday, according to Recreation Commission officials.

The leave is indefinite and begins immediately, the commission board’s chairwoman, J. Marie Green, said in a press release Friday afternoon.

Brown’s request comes against the backdrop of ongoing state and federal investigations into allegations of corruption at the Recreation Commission, and civil lawsuits accusing Brown of sexual harassment and other improper behavior.

Richland County Council also has frozen the majority of the Recreation Commission’s 2016-17 funding until an audit shows how the agency spends its money.

Brown has denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Efforts to reach him late Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.

State lawmakers from Richland County last week asked the commission’s board to suspend Brown until investigations into his office are complete. The board – not lawmakers – has authority to hire and fire the agency’s director although the lawmakers appoint the board’s members.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department, 5th Circuit solicitor’s office, State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI are looking into allegations of public corruption at the commission.

Brown’s chief of staff, Tara Dickerson, will handle the agency’s day-to-day operations while he is out.

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks