Across South Carolina

Pageant pays fine to halt investigation


SPARTANBURG - The Miss South Carolina Pageant has paid a $2,000 fine to end an investigation into financial irregularities by the Secretary of State's Office.

The office fined the pageant for refusing to send in documents to support its 2004 and 2005 tax filings.

It would have taken too much time to study the information and the pageant didn't want to lose possession of the paperwork, according to its lawyer, Natalma McKnew.

Secretary of State Mark Hammond said the pageant also agreed it would not contest his ruling that his office has enough evidence to show the pageant broke administrative law.

A separate investigation into the pageant by the State Law Enforcement Division continues.

Barbecue owner's lawsuit tossed out

COLUMBIA - The South Carolina Supreme Court has tossed out a lawsuit filed by barbecue magnate Maurice Bessinger accusing several grocery store chains of unfair trade by not selling his sauce on their shelves.

Nine chains with more than 3,000 stores between them removed Mr. Bessinger's barbecue sauce in 2000 after he raised the Confederate flag over his restaurants in protest of the Legislature's decision to take the flag off the top of the Statehouse.

News stories at the time also pointed out Mr. Bessinger distributed literature at his restaurants with titles such as The South Was Right and Myths of American Slavery.

Mr. Bessinger sued, asking for $50 million. He said the grocery chains violated his right to free speech under the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act by removing his barbecue sauce.

Skater-shoving police officer is suspended

CHARLESTON - The police officer seen on Internet video around the world pushing a skateboarder over a bush at a city park has been suspended for 10 days.

An internal investigation, started once the video taken more than a year ago hit the Internet in March, found Pfc. Willie Simmons, 49, used an unnecessary level of force when she pushed 19-year-old skateboarder Corey Dowds over a hedge in Waterfront Park, Police Chief Greg Mullen said.

Pfc. Simmons began serving her suspension Thursday, Chief Mullen said.

Ex-fire chief charged with embezzlement

FLORENCE - The former chief of the Florence Rescue Squad has been charged with embezzling more than $27,000 over two years.

Kenneth Eugene Williams, 40, turned himself in Thursday night, police Maj. Carlos Raines said. He is charged with embezzlement of public funds.

Investigators say Mr. Williams took money from the squad's bank accounts at two different banks for his own personal use between Jan. 3, 2005, and March 7.