A group of Richland County state lawmakers is calling for the resignation of five of the Richland County Recreation Commission’s seven members, accusing them of disregarding serious problems within the agency responsible for overseeing parks in the unincorporated areas outside Columbia.
Six lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties held a press conference Wednesday and said they found six “acts of malfeasance” while looking into recent problems at the commission.
State Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said their demands have nothing to do with an investigation into the commission by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the FBI. “It is regardless of the investigations. We believe that the board has committed six acts of malfeasance and therefore it is time for them to resign,” Lourie said.
The six alleged acts of acts of malfeasance the legislators cite are:
* Approval of irresponsible pay for director James Brown, III
* Blatant nepotism
* Disregard of a hostile work environment for employees
* Excessive litigation and costs
* Lack of effective oversight
* Multiple allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct
State Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia, said the board is not following any recommendations from an expensive report they commissioned. “This recreation commission asked for a report on issues. Hired a law firm, spent $35,000 on this report,” he told reporters. “I suspected that if it said anything good that exonerated the members it would have been released.”
The Recreation Commission appears to be the latest back-and-forth between Richland County’s large delegation, which is controlled by its Democratic majority but tends to divide more often between those lawmakers from middle-class or suburban districts and those from the more urban or lower-income areas.
Some lawmakers in the delegation, most notably House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, are urging patience until the SLED investigation is complete.
Only Gov. Nikki Haley, not the county delegation, has the power to terminate the board members. The governor appoints the members based on the recommendation of the Statehouse delegation. The Governor’s Office
The group sent a letter asking for J. Marie Green, Barbara Mickens, Weston Furgess, George Martin, and Joseph Weeks to step down.