December Drug Charges Not the First for Fairfield Coach

David Toney

WINNSBORO – An assistant coach with the Fairfield Central High School football staff who was arrested and charged with simple possession of marijuana while on his way to the state championship game on Dec. 6 had a history of similar convictions, according to documents acquired recently by The Voice. In addition to two prior convictions for simple possession, David Nathaniel Toney, 36, also had two incidents of passing fraudulent checks and numerous driving-related offenses, including driving under suspension, attempting to use someone else’s driver’s license and failure to pay traffic tickets – all of which the School District said its previous administration was aware at the time of Toney’s hire in August of 2008.

Beth Reid (District 7), Chairwoman of the Fairfield County School Board, said the Board was made aware of Toney’s priors during a briefing by Superintendent J.R. Green at the Dec. 17 Board meeting. Reid said it is District policy to run background checks on all prospective employees through the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), but it was not clear to her if one had been run on Toney – or if it had been, why it was apparently ignored.

“(Background checks) are supposed to be done,” Reid said. “It certainly is distressing that, if in fact one was done, (the convictions were) not discovered.”

Green, while he could not confirm if such a check was run on Toney, said the information regarding his criminal history was in Toney’s file. Green said he did not look into Toney’s file until after Toney’s arrest on Dec. 6.

“My guess is it was done,” Green said.

Green said Toney would likely have been tapped for his position on the coaching staff under then head coach Reggie Kennedy, but the interviewing process would have been conducted at the school level. In Toney’s case, this would have meant Fairfield Middle School, with the initial recommendation for hire made by the principal. Following the principal’s recommendation, the District’s Human Resources department, at that time headed by Dr. Jeffrey Long, would have conducted the necessary background checks. The final recommendation for hire would then have been made to the Board by then superintendent Samantha Ingram.

Long was hired by the District in July 2008. Phone calls to the District Office to determine when Long left the District were not returned at press time. The Voice was also unable to reach Long, who now serves as Director of Operation for the Lee County School District. Ingram served as Superintendent from June 2007 to 2009.

Green, who was hired in July 2012, said a bad SLED report, while a factor in the vetting process, would not necessarily eliminate someone from employment. References, he said, play a large part in the hiring process.

“It’s a judgment call,” Green said. “I’m never going to tell someone who has had a brush with the law that I would not hire that person. You have to make an evaluation. That doesn’t mean you don’t take those other things into consideration – you do – but references are a big influence on your decision.”

In fact, Green said, Toney’s references from his previous employment in Orangeburg County were outstanding, and his performance as a math teacher earned him Teacher of the Year honors for the District in 2012-2013.

“In terms of his performance as a teacher, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Green said. “That’s not to say what he did doesn’t matter, but an evaluation of him at the professional level was excellent.”

And while Toney’s criminal history was on file with the District, Green said records of any conversations that might have taken place between Long and Ingram about that history – and their decision to hire him in spite of that history – are not.

A SLED background check on Toney, obtained by The Voice through the S.C. Press Association, lists three prior misdemeanors – a marijuana charge on Dec. 21, 2006 and two counts of issuing fraudulent checks, one on Aug. 3, 2000 and another on June 1, 2005.

According to an incident report from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Toney was pulled over in Columbia at Read and Harden streets at 1 p.m. on Dec. 21, 2006 after a deputy noticed a faulty brake light on Toney’s 2003 Dodge. The deputy noted a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the car and Toney directed the deputy to a partially burned marijuana cigarette tucked inside the driver’s side door handle. Toney then consented to a search of the vehicle, and a K-9 Unit discovered a small bag (approximately .5 grams) of marijuana hidden inside a shoe behind the passenger seat, as well as another marijuana cigarette on the passenger seat. Toney was arrested and charged with simple possession of marijuana. According to court documents, Toney was convicted on Jan. 23, 2007, receiving 30 days and a fine of $581.95. The documents also indicate that Toney has only paid $377 of that fine.

Toney received a 30-day suspended sentence and a $60 fine on June 13, 2001 for his fraudulent check charges.

A second marijuana charge, which does not appear on Toney’s SLED check, was revealed by an examination of Toney’s 10-year driving record, obtained by The Voice through a Freedom of Information Act request last week. That record indicates Toney was pulled over in Calhoun County on May 17, 2007 and found to be in possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. Toney was also charged with driving under suspension at the time. The Calhoun County Magistrate’s Court confirmed that Toney was found guilty of both charges on June 25, 2007 and issued a fine of $647 for driving under suspension and a fine of $300 for simple possession. Toney did not pay those fines until October 10, 2012, the Magistrate’s Court said, and until that time was without a legal S.C. driver’s license.

The Magistrate’s Court said that since Toney was only issued a citation for the offenses, and not arrested and fingerprinted, those convictions would not have appeared on a SLED background check.

On July 18, 2007, Toney was convicted in an Orangeburg court for attempting to use someone else’s driver’s license during a May 28, 2007 traffic stop. He was fined $250.

Toney’s latest encounter with the law, when he was pulled over by the S.C. Highway Patrol for driving 67 in a 55 on Highway 34 near I-77 on Dec. 6, and which turned up a bag of marijuana and several marijuana cigarettes, earned him a suspension from his duties as a coach and a math teacher at Fairfield Middle School, with pay, until his case has been heard. Toney was scheduled to appear before a Fairfield County Magistrate’s Court judge Thursday, after The Voice went to press.

Toney’s arrest on Dec. 6 caused him to miss the Griffins’ state title game against Dillon High School, a game the Griffins lost 41-3.

While Toney’s hire by the previous administration has raised question about the District’s vetting process – specifically, who else may also have slipped through the cracks and what may be in the background of other employees hired during the Ingram administration – Green said he was confident Toney’s situation was unique.

“I would guess that this is an isolated incident,” Green said, “an exceptional situation, that doesn’t lead us to look into anyone’s past to see if they had this kind of thing when we hired them.”