Chester Co. Council votes to file ethics complaint against County Supervisor over undisclosed raise for now-suspended sheriff

Chester Co. Council votes to file ethics complaint against County Supervisor over undisclosed raise for now-suspended sheriff

CHESTER, S.C. (WBTV) - The Chester County Council voted unanimously to file an ethics complaint against County Supervisor Shane Stuart at its meeting Tuesday night.

The move came after it was discovered that Stuart unilaterally approved a more than $20,000 raise for then-Sheriff Alex Underwood and four other top deputies in the department in November 2016.

The raise was first reported by The (Chester) News & Reporter earlier this month.

Under South Carolina law, a raise for an elected official must be approved by the county council.

On Monday, council members said the four other raises had to be approved because they altered the budget for the sheriff’s office.

“The Sheriff’s pay raise clearly should have come before council and was clearly a violation of law,” Councilman Alex Oliphant, who placed the item on the agenda, said.

In his defense, Stuart said he consulted with the county attorney and believed that he could approve the raises because it was within the budget for the sheriff’s office.

“While I may have been consulted, that doesn’t mean that I agreed,” County Attorney Joanie Winters said in response.

The council voted to have the council’s vice chairman, Joe Branham, handle the matter with the assistance of an outside attorney, since the county attorney reports to Stuart in his role as County Supervisor.

Later in the meeting, Branham ticked off a list of other items Stuart had signed off on without council approval, including a five-year contract to store body camera video at the sheriff’s office; credit card expenses incurred by Underwood; and others.

“It’s a lot of stuff that has to be looked into,” Branham said. "What really concerns me is that council never knew about any of this.

Underwood and his two co-defendants will appear for the first time in Federal Court in Columbia, SC on Tuesday morning.

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