Originally created 03/01/01

SLED ends ham scam inspection

AIKEN - A state agency officially closed its investigation Wednesday into Aiken County Council's holiday ham giveaway, but details will not be released until late next week, a SLED spokeswoman said.

South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division Lt. Michael Brown still has to review the case before copies can be released under the Freedom of Information Act, spokeswoman Katherine Richardson said.

SLED and the State Ethics Commission launched investigations into allegations of "official misconduct" by three county council members in November. The probe stems from an anonymous letter accusing Chairman Ronnie Young and members LaWana McKenzie and Joel Randall of trading holiday hams and turkeys - bought with public money - for political influence, favors and votes.

Both investigations cleared the council members of any wrongdoing.

Some county council members say they are eager to get their hands on the report. The council denied member Willar Hightower's request for SLED to release its report on the controversial investigation last week, saying it was a "done issue."

But Mr. Hightower said residents are "demanding an accounting of the distribution of hams."

"I want to look at that report and make sure my conclusions are the same," said Mr. Hightower, who himself sent a Freedom of Information request to SLED after the council voted not to ask for the documents.

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.


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