Originally created 09/23/05

Investigation centers on Johnston's chief



AIKEN - Johnston Police Chief Butch Easler has been suspended while state law officers investigate allegations of perjury and violating a victim's rights the town's mayor said Thursday.

A spokesman for the State Law Enforcement Division said the department does not comment on ongoing investigations and would not confirm that Chief Easler was the focus of an inquiry. Inspector Richard Hunton would say only that the department is investigating a Johnston public official.

But Johnston Mayor Dean Campbell said he suspended Chief Easler, who has been in charge of the seven-man police department since 1990, after learning of the criminal investigation Wednesday afternoon.

"They said they are investigating allegations of perjury and violations of a victim's rights," Mr. Campbell said. "They did not disclose to me what circumstances led to this investigation, nor did they tell me what case these allegations stem from."

Chief Easler, whose phone number is not listed, could not be reached for comment.

Chief Easler, who earns between $34,000 and $44,000 a year as police chief, will remain suspended with pay until the investigation is complete or the case is adjudicated, Mr. Campbell said.

Suspending an employee during such an investigation is standard, he said.

Cpl. Craig Wooten, now the highest-ranking officer in the department, has been named interim chief.

Mr. Campbell said he has never seen a problem with Chief Easler's work and was surprised to hear of the investigation.

"I think Chief Easler has done a good job for our town," he said. "I have no reason to believe there has been any wrongdoing. However, we'll let the investigation bring out the facts and go from there."

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.