SLED Closes Book on Vote-Buying Probe

WINNSBORO – A preliminary probe by the state’s highest law enforcement agency into allegations of votes being bought and paid for in last fall’s Democratic primary runoff in the race for Fairfield County Sheriff has come up empty, a spokesperson for the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed last week.

SLED opened the inquiry just days after the Oct. 14 primary runoff between then Richland County Sheriff’s deputy Will Montgomery and Keith Lewis, who was Fairfield County’s Chief Deputy at the time. Shortly following Montgomery’s 2,787-2,168 victory, Debbie Stidham, Director of Fairfield County Voter Registration and Elections, told The Voice that she had received complaints from two independent sources who alleged that money had changed hands in exchange for votes in the race. Stidham said she forwarded those complaints to Dunstan Padgett, who was Fairfield County’s interim Sheriff at the time, and Padgett, according to protocol, notified SLED.

“We received reports of irregularities – bribes – from two different sources,” Stidham said last October. “We thought it was best to be proactive about it.”

But last week, a SLED spokesperson said agents had found “no substance for justification” of a full-blown investigation into the allegations, and the case had been closed.

With Lewis eliminated in the runoff, and with no Republican candidates declaring, Montgomery was easily elected Sheriff with 1,970 votes last November. Lewis has since taken a position as an investigator for the Sixth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.


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