Fairfield County Tax Assessor Out Following Prostitution Sting

The Fairfield County Tax Assessor has stepped down from his duties following an investigation into details surrounding his arrest over the weekend on charges of soliciting prostitution in Columbia. Davis Anderson, Fairfield County’s Deputy Administrator, said Irby and the County parted ways Wednesday.

“It was a mutual decision,” Anderson said.

Wendell Irby, 56, was arrested in a motel room on Two Notch Road Dec. 13 as part of a two-day sting operation, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said Monday. Irby was one of seven individuals lured to the motel with a bogus ad on the Web site Backpage.com, a site used to advertise adult services.

Anderson said Monday that Irby had been suspended without pay pending the outcome of an investigation. Anderson said Irby’s work computer had been examined and no illegal activity had been detected for as far back as 60 days. Irby was not on County time when the alleged incident occurred, Anderson said, nor was he in a County vehicle or using County dollars. Furthermore, Anderson added, Irby had not been convicted, only charged with a misdemeanor. If it is a first offense, Anderson said, Irby could very well go through the Pre-trial Intervention program and the offense would not appear on his record at all.

“It’s more of an image problem,” Anderson said.

Irby had been employed by the County since August 1976, Anderson said, and has been the Tax Assessor since 2003.

According to the County’s “Employee and Conduct Discipline” policy (policy ER-3), “conviction of or plea of guilty or no contest to a charge of . . . (a) sexual misconduct offense involving moral turpitude, or offenses which affect the County’s reputation or which reasonably could create concern on the part of fellow employees or the community” will “normally result in disciplinary action.”

“Disciplinary action,” the policy states, “may include, but is not limited to, an oral warning, written warning, demotion, salary reduction, loss of leave or suspension without pay, but may result in dismissal, or any combination.”

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that a concerned citizen prompted the department to set up the sting, which resulted in arrests for drug offenses and solicitation of prostitution by the Department’s Narcotics Unit.

Lott said that prostitutes are placing ads on Backpage.com offering escort/prostitution services. An undercover narcotics agent posing as “Jasmine” posted an advertisement that resulted in more than 40 telephone calls to set up appointments for services. When the suspects showed up for their appointments and requested sex in exchange for money, they were arrested, the Sheriff’s Department said. The transactions were monitored with video surveillance by agents in an adjacent motel room.

Lott said that prostitution often leads to other crimes, such as robbery, carjacking, drugs or weapons violations.

Also arrested during the operation were: Brandon Clea-Evans, 26; Ellison Hudson, 24; Robert Law, 28; Marques Wilson, 35; Isaiah Regin, 21; and Quention Govan, 36.

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