Mayor asks SLED to investigate Grounsell, councilwoman
Former Simpsonville Police Chief Keith Grounsell addresses the city council earlier in January where he demanded a grievance hearing. (File/FOX Carolina)
Simpsonville Mayor Perry Eichor listens to a question from the media during a press conference. (Feb. 4, 2013/FOX Carolina)
SIMPSONVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Simpsonville Mayor Perry Eichor said Monday he has asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate a misuse of power by former Police Chief Keith Grounsell and Ward III Councilwoman Geneva Lawrence.
Grounsell was fired at the Dec. 28 Simpsonville City Council meeting and since then, he has fired back at the council, claiming he was let go because he tried to clean up the department.
Following his firing, Eichor said the decision was made because Grounsell was not a good fit and failed to work well with the city's administration.
Since Grounsell was fired, dozens of people have attended city council meetings. Some held signs and wore T-shirts showing their support for the ex-chief.
During a press conference Monday, Eichor said most of those who are the most vocal about Grounsell's firing are not citizens of Simpsonville. He said city leaders had solid reasons to fire Grounsell, including his desire for absolute authority without supervision of his direct supervisor - the city administrator.
Eichor also said that he has sent a letter to the SLED Director Mark Keel, asking his agency to investigate the firing of a police officer and the hiring of another, who was a relative of Lawrence. He said Grounsell and Lawrence worked together to create a vacancy at the police department, which they subsequently filled with Lawrence's relative.
"It appears Councilmember Lawrence and Keith Grounsell were working together to circumvent the law so as to hire Lawrence's relative, who left the police department in Mauldin after being charged with driving under the influence."
Eichor said the alleged misuse of power was discovered as a result of the media's requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
"Again, this pains me greatly as a disappointment, because it appears the good-ol'-boy system is still in effect," Eichor said. "Myself and several other council members, after thorough investigation, vow that it will stop."
Lawrence and Ward VI Councilwoman Sylvia Lockaby were the two council members who voted against Grounsell's firing.
"Simpsonville needs to move on, but regrettably it cannot do so until the issue is put to rest," Eichor said.
Lawrence declined to comment about Eichor's accusations.
Lockaby said she still supports Grounsell and wonders what the mayor will make up about her next.
Grounsell said he did not want to comment until he sat down with his attorney, but he went on to call Eichor's accusations false, malicious and illegal.
"It is sad that people in public-trust positions abuse their powers this to extreme," Grounsell said.
Grounsell said that when the truth comes out, the city will be embarrassed at what some elected officials have said and done.
A spokesman for SLED said an investigator will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine if a full criminal investigation is warranted.
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Here's some of the previous stories about the controversy caused by the firing of Simpsonville Police Chief Keith Grounsell.Dec. 28, 2012: Mayor: Fired Simpsonville police chief was not good fitJan. 8,More>>
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