SLED investigating possible ethics violations in Berkeley County

BERKELEY COUNTY. S.C. (WCBD)  — Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis is asking SLED to investigate after he met this morning with candidates for the Statehouse and Berkeley County Council.

Sheriff Lewis met with Elaine Barnett, the candidate running against Berkeley County Councilman Ken Gunn, Steven Smith, the candidate running against State Representative Samuel Rivers Jr. and Donald Bailey, a Berkeley County citizen. Barnett says Rep. Rivers tried to offer her a position with the county if she dropped out of her race against Gunn.

This issue originally came to light after Steven Smith posted text messages between Barnett and Rivers on Facebook that he said made it clear Rivers was trying to encourage Barnett to drop out in exchange for a position with the county.

After the meeting, Sheriff Lewis released a statement that said he is asking SLED to open an investigation into possible ethics violations against Rivers, Councilman Gunn, Berkeley County Supervisor William Peagler and Deputy Supervisor Tim Callanan.

Councilman Gunn tells News 2 that he never asked anyone to ask Barnett to drop out of the race.

After the meeting, Steve Smith told News 2, “I think the text messages are very clear… When you ask somebody if you pull out of this race, trust I will work for you, you will have nothing to lose but everything to gain, I think there is something more. You can not make those words mean anything other than what they mean.”

News 2’s Raymond Owens broke news of the referred to SLED to Rep. Rivers. “I’m happy that they are going to forward it on for an investigation because the investigation will discover a couple of things; that there’s no truth to the allegations other than a desperate last minute political attack.”

Rivers went on to say Mrs. Barnett contacted him about the race, because they were friends. “She herself said she was not sure whether she was going to continue. From that I said well you could probably serve on a volunteer board or commission if you’re not sure you want to run at this particular time. That was the extent of the conversation.”

They then called Tim Callanan on the phone to ask him about board and commission vacancies in the county. Rivers said what Smith posted on Facebook was just some of the text messages, not the full conversation, painting a partial picture. “The full text messages, you will see in her words that she said she was not sure whether she was going to serve or not.”

Tim Callanan was not available for an interview but he said Barnett asked about volunteer positions, and he gave her information on that. “I actually felt like I was doing a service for her., then she comes back and falsely accused me on this… Her and Mr. smith are the most despicable people I have come across in my entire life. This is a new low.”

Supervisor Bill Peagler was not available for comment.

No word yet on how long the investigation will take.

The primary election for the statehouse seat and the county council seat takes place just days from now on Tuesday.

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