I-TEAM: Continuing the coverage: Allendale County ‘Broke and Broken’

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 3:32 PM EDT
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ALLENDALE COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A South Carolina senator is asking the governor to remove the Allendale County treasurer from office. This comes after our I-Team spent months investigating financial problems in the county from the school district not receiving state money to county employee payroll taxes being paid.

Now the state of South Carolina is withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars from one of its poorest county due to overdue audits. I-Team’s Liz Owens continues her investigation into Allendale County Broke and Broken.

Senator Brad Hutto first contacted the governor’s office last year about Allendale County’s financial situation. Last week he sent yet another letter to Governor Henry McMaster stating “We are writing to you again to bring attention a situation in Allendale County regarding the county treasurer that has escalated to a crisis.”

The crisis in Allendale County began brewing years grabbing the attention of lawmakers and citizens alike.

Nearly a year after families voiced their concerns to Allendale commissioners Senator Brad Hutto writes Governor Henry McMaster “We are requesting your office to investigate the evidence presented in this letter, and the evidence previously provided to your office, so that you may make a determination concerning whether the Allendale County treasurer should be removed from office.”

The I-Team asked Gerzel Chaney about the county’s financial situation earlier this year.

How close is the county to being broke?

“I don’t know,” said Chaney.

Wouldn’t you know as the treasurer?

“Yes. I say I don’t know because I don’t know what steps have been taken on the administration side to re-coop the revenues that haven’t been sought after that I have said need to be sought after. I can say we are knocking on the door,” he said.

The senator’s letter outlines problems stemming from the treasurer’s office which includes tax revenues owed to the school district, monthly income statements not provided to the county administrator, and incomplete mandated audits.

Rick Gooding told us county commission has had no luck getting information either.

Where is the money at?

“Good question. We don’t know,” said Gooding.

As an elected official I would think you all of you would have answers to that.

“Council we get an expenditure report however we don’t get an income report we don’t know how much revenue we have coming in,” he said.

According to the senator’s letter, “The comptroller general has informed the county he will withhold nearly 600 thousand due to the county until the 2019-2020 audit is completed.” The senator continues: “Stated plainly, Ms. Chaney’s failures have placed Allendale County, and the school district in financial peril.”

We reached out to Ms. Chaney and she responded in a statement, “The initial letter nor this most recent letter were provided to me. It concerns me that no attempt is being made to address the issues noted to determine the validity. Cooperative communication between the County entities and myself has not taken place to resolve the areas that need to be addressed to ensure productivity. Is it customary to make a request of this magnitude to the Governor without bringing all parties to the table to see if the allegations are true? How do you determine whose side you are going to believe if all parties are not consulted? The citizens elected us to perform the duties of our offices as a cohesive unit for the good of the County. One office cannot operate or ruin an entire county.”

“The initial plan of action was completion of the Forensic Audit to determine how to align responsibilities in a way that makes the County most productive. How are you superseding that response and seeking removal? In closing, as I stated before, I welcome any investigation because the allegations are one sided and do not reflect the actual situation at hand.”

The county has been undergoing a forensic audit since the beginning of the year, the chairman of county commission tells me he expects it to wrap up in the next few days.

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