SLED clears county, Delk

By Kasie Strickland -

PICKENS COUNTY – Following an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, former Pickens County Administrator Matthew Delk has been cleared of all accusations that he had used county resources illegally.

Earlier this year Pickens County Council members received an email from Council Clerk Donna Owen stating that Councilman Neil Smith had requested her to send an email to council that he would not be attending a planned council retreat if Delk was included.

The email included the statement that the administrator (Delk) was insubordinate, incompetent and that he “uses county resources in an illegal manner.”

Delk resigned shortly afterward amidst a severance package and gag order agreement with Pickens County.

According to the SLED report, the allegations against Delk were “unfounded.”

SLED originally became involved after an anonymous letter was received by the Pickens County Sheriffs Office asking why such allegations weren’t being investigated.

After a council meeting on Sept. 21, it was unamiously decided by council that Council Chair Jennifer Willis should write a letter to Gov. Nikki Haley expressing concern that SLED was being used to promote political agendas within the county.

“Recently, the Pickens County Sheriff, Rick Clark, requested an investigation into the County Council and its employees due to a purported ‘anonymous’ letter he received alleging criminal conduct by County officials and/or employees,” writes Willis. “After many weeks of investigation, SLED ultimately deemed these allegations by Sheriff Clark to be ‘unfounded’ and the investigation was closed.

“As a backdrop to this situation, please understand that the Sheriff and County Council are currently at odds over several political issues, including budget requests and situations at our local jail,” continues Willis. “The Council believes that this investigation was initiated by the Sheriff in order to apply political pressure on the county government so that we would acquiesce to his demands.”

The letter went on to state that council’s concern was “exacerbated by their understanding that the Sheriff asked SLED to expand its investigation to include Mr. Tim Morgan, a private citizen who was the Sheriffs political opponent from the immediately prior election cycle, as a potential subject of this investigation.”

Ken Roper, attorney for Pickens County, stated in an email that in addition to SLED being asked to investigate Morgan, the agency was also asked to look into several other rumors from anonymous sources.

“I understand (this) was extremely frustrating to SLED, as they usually do not find themselves running down such unsubstantiated and unverifiable rumors,” said Roper. “That’s not the mission of their organization. Nevertheless, they were apparently directed to do so. As a result, this relatively benign matter was blown completely out of proportion.”

By Kasie Strickland

Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.

Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.

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