A.G.: No Crime in County/S2 Probe

Former County Administrator Phil Hinely during a July 2013 meeting.

Former County Administrator Phil Hinely during a July 2013 meeting.

WINNSBORO – More than a year after the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) opened the case, and after a month under review by the state’s top prosecutor, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office announced this week that it would not prosecute Fairfield County administrators for alleged improprieties in the County’s procurement practices.

“The evidence did not support a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed,” a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office told The Voice Tuesday.

SLED opened the investigation in February of 2014 and sources inside the County said then that agents had interviewed County employees and reviewed checks and invoices in the County’s Procurement Department. Shortly after news of the probe leaked out, former County Council Chairman David Ferguson said SLED was focusing on the County’s relationship with S2 Engineering, a firm with which the County spent more than $8.76 million between December 2009 and September 2013.

Documents obtained by The Voice last year indicated that S2 projects over that time period ranged from improvements to the HON Building, to construction of the new Voter Registration offices, work at the County Courthouse and much more. Work also included the football field at Drawdy Park and its retaining wall, a portion of which collapsed in January 2014.

Records indicate that the S2 projects were not put out for bid. Instead, S2 was selected for the projects from a pre-approved list of firms maintained by former County Administrator Phil Hinely. At the time the investigation first came to light, Ferguson said that while those procurement practices may have been unusual, he did not think they were illegal.

In a declination letter regarding Hinely, and an identical letter regarding Deputy Administrator Davis Anderson, Assistant Attorney General Brian Petrano wrote SLED “I have concluded that criminal prosecution is not appropriate given the facts and circumstances presented.”

Anderson told The Voice Tuesday afternoon that while he, like many other County employees, had been interviewed by SLED agents during their investigation, he was not aware that he was personally one of the focal points of the inquiry.

“If people thought I had done something wrong, I hope this vindicates me,” Anderson said. “I always follow my leadership and the direction of County Council. I only do what my bosses and County Council tell me to do. I’m glad the investigation is over and that the Attorney General’s Office understood the facts as they were.”

Hinely, who resigned in June 2013 and is now retired and living in North Carolina, said he was also glad to see the case come to its conclusion.

“I knew that sooner or later when all of the facts were presented and the hysteria was over, I would be vindicated,” Hinely said. “It’s a shame the state had to expend all of this time, effort and money, but I’m glad it’s over. There was nothing to it to begin with.”

SLED concluded its investigation in July and forwarded their findings to the Sixth Circuit Solicitor’s Office in Lancaster for a determination on whether or not the County’s practices merited a criminal prosecution.

Citing a potential conflict of interest, Sixth Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman forwarded the matter to the Attorney General’s Office.

“The case involves a lot of County officials,” Newman told The Voice last month, “and I sometimes make budget requests from the County.”


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