Lawmakers continue call for removal of board members
By RON AIKEN
It took one paragraph from the South Carolina Attorney Genera’ls office today to dethrone what employees have called a “mob-like” reign of terror for the past five-plus years under voluntarily suspended Richland County Recreation Commission executive director James A. Brown IIII.
Brown was indicted by a grand jury today on one count of using his position to coerce and attempt to coerce female subordinates into engaging in sexual contact with him.
The indictment comes almost six months to the day that the original story broke exposing widespread problems at the recreation commission
The charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, though it’s unlikely Brown will face the maximum amount if convicted.
Following are statements from the Richland County legislative delegation, who continue their call for Gov. Nikki Haley to remove the five board members who ignored an independent $35,000 investigation into multiple claims of sexual harassment by Brown and instead voted 5-2 to “support the director.” Those board members, led by J. Marie Green (chairwoman) and Barbara Mickens (vice chair) have been alleged to have received either cash payments or goods and services from Brown and the agency.
In response to the indictment of Richland County Recreation Director James Brown, members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation commented as follows:
Senator Joel Lourie:
“Today’s development is an important step in fixing the horrific problems at the recreation commission. For a year now we have been hearing horror stories from current and previous employees about the way they have been treated by the director. These desperate calls for help have been irresponsibly ignored by the Commission. Today’s action only strengthens our resolve that the five commissioners who support Mr. Brown need to resign or be removed by Governor Haley immediately. Also, I want to personally tell the employees of the Recreation Commission and the citizens of Richland County that you deserve better, and it is my hope that members of this delegation will do everything possible to quickly restore trust and accountability with this agency.”
Senator John Courson:
“Senator Lourie and I, in a bipartisan manner, introduced legislation this year to turn the governance of the Recreation Commission over to Richland County Council. They are proving funding and they should have the appointment powers of the commission. I intend to refile the legislation in the next legislative session beginning in January of 2017.”
Representative Beth Bernstein:
“As a woman and mother of 2 daughters, I am appalled that the women employed at RCRC have been subjected to such egregious and disgusting conduct by Director James Brown. This is one step in the right direction and a small victory for the many women who have been vocal about the inappropriate conduct at the commission and other victims of sexual harassment. Since Director Brown has been indicted, the Governor should utilize her authority to remove Mr. Brown along with the Board Commissioners who were complicit by failing to intervene once they had notice.”
Representative Mia McLeod:
“As a parent and citizen of Richland county, this is beyond embarrassing. It makes me angry and disgusted. No woman should ever have to deal with this, especially from her employer. My hope is that all who are involved will move quickly to restore the faith and trust of our community. Previously, I stated that the Commissioners, regardless of guilt or innocence, would always operate under a cloud of suspicion unless they took decisive action. Once again, I ask them to take decisive action now, for the sake of our children and community.”
Representative Joe McEachern:
“This is about the terrible mismanagement of the Recreation Commission from both the director and the five board members that support him. I hope Governor Haley will take quick action to remove them so we can go about the business of cleaning up their mess. The people of Richland County are counting on us.”
Representative James Smith:
“The news of Mr. Brown’s indictment adds further support to our request to Governor Haley that she take action to remove the five Recreation Commissioners who voted to support Director Brown’s continued employment.”
Representative Nathan Ballentine:
“This is a positive step for taxpayers that want answers. I hope all members of this delegation will take this opportunity to insist upon the truth in this matter and join our efforts to clean house.”