Is RCRC chief ‘The most powerful black man in South Carolina’?

Things are continuing to heat up over at the Richland County Recreation Commission, causing Sen. Joel Lourie to send this message this morning to his fellow members of the county legislative delegation:

Dear Fellow Delegation Members –

I wanted to make you aware of the recent developments with the Recreation Commission.

Joel 2

Sen. Joel Lourie

The story on WACH fox is alarming and very, very concerning.  I think we are in crisis mode and like me, I am sure you have heard from constituents who are demanding change.  I cannot imagine what is like for the employees working there, but it sounds like a “living hell”.  We cannot sit quietly and ignore what is happening.  Please join me in insisting the commission take action on the recommendation of the delegation last week to suspend the director until the investigation is concluded and the cloud of uncertainty and fear is removed.  My friends, I have never seen anything like this in all my years of public service and we owe it to the employees and citizens of Richland County to take action.  I hope to be speaking with many of you in the days ahead about this urgent matter.

Wishing you and your family a safe holiday weekend  –

Joel Lourie

Here’s the WACH-Fox story he alluded to, which featured some pretty lurid quotes from an unnamed “whistleblower:”

Sexual harassment, bullying and a long line of nepotism are what a whistleblower says the Executive Director brings to the Richland County Recreation Commission. A person with ties to the commission spoke exclusively with WACH FOX News and The State newspaper, saying they and many others are scared for their lives.

“We’re scared. I mean, we’ve heard that he carries a gun in the office.. so we’re.. we never know when he will flip and turn on us because he has said many times that if he goes down, he’s taking all of us with him.”

The whistleblower says Executive Director James Brown III has been making threats for at least two years, but they have gotten worse since the first of multiple lawsuits were filed.

“He has bragged about having sexual relations in the bathroom at the job, and he’s also bragged saying he only needs to throw fifty dollars to certain people- you know, out of his pocket, to get what he wants.”…

The whistleblower says in the last year, about fifteen people have been fired- most of them in retaliation for speaking out against him.

“He thinks it’s a joke, and he thinks he’s the most powerful black man in South Carolina, and he has said that and said that he knows he can get away with anything.”…

The story in The State was less sensational, but on firmer ground. Rather than quoting the anonymous source, he paper stuck with named sources and documents:

An employee of the highly scrutinized Richland County Recreation Commission who is one of several recently to sue the agency was fired this week.

It’s the most recent plot point in a continuing narrative characterized by inflammatory accusations, numerous lawsuits and investigations by local, state and federal agencies launched in recent months into the commission and its executive director, James Brown III.

Anthony Cooper, the commission’s bond director, was fired by the agency Wednesday, according to Cooper’s attorney, J. Lewis Cromer. Cooper’s termination letter cited him as “placing documents in the Dumpster in violation of a current litigation hold,” Cromer said in a statement Thursday.

But Cooper, Cromer said, had outwardly accused higher-ups in the commission of shredding documents that might have been the subject of investigations….

The plot sickens.

I just called Joel to chat further about this, but missed him. I left a message saying that I bet I know one thing he won’t miss about his job as a senator…

One of the commission's many facilities.

One of the commission’s many facilities.

12 thoughts on “Is RCRC chief ‘The most powerful black man in South Carolina’?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Ow, ow, OW! My ears!

    I just now listened to the WACH report — having initially only read the text version of the story.

    The reporter, Tara Pettit, says “The whistleblower [is] coming forward… because they say they’re out of options.”

    Furthermore, she says, this individual is “Scared for their life after what they’ve seen and heard…”


    1. JesseS

      Like it or not you better get use to “they”, and not just for anonymous sources. Gendered pronouns will be one of the next big kulturkampf battles and they, not “they” will lose.

    2. Scout

      I have encountered this. Apparently the use of “they” as a singular gender neutral pronoun is becoming accepted as a thing. This is presumably because it flows better than saying “he or she” or the like every time, and using “he” as a default is becoming not politically correct. It grates on my ears though. Some people are apparently trying to introduce a new gender neutral pronoun “xe” with objective form “xem”.
      That’s just weird. That’s all.

  2. Tex

    Why anyone would live in Columbia or Richland County is beyond me. Everytime you turn around there is more corruption. Is there one agency or council that hasn’t found guilty of corruption?

    1. Mark Stewart

      It’s a statewide problem; and an endemic effect of the corruptions of a Legislative State. To think this is a county, or race, specific situation is to completely miss the boat. Many people are glad not to live in Lexington County; where you have exactly the same problems festering all around you, were you able to discern it. Maybe everyone needs to wake up to the larger problem?

      Don’t treat it as a one-off. It may be lurid, but it is just the thing that Pascoe is trying to chase down in the legislature itself. Absolute power corrupts.

      1. Tex

        The difference is that those of in Lexington County are voting these problem people out of office. In Richland County they just get a pass for another 4 years regardless of how much people complain. How many incumbents in Richland County lost their primary?

        1. Barry


          and NOW in Lexington- you don’t have a legislative delegation that will put up with it like before

    2. Barry


      I am proud I moved out of Columbia and Richland County. I go out of my way not to spend any money inside those limits.

      However, my wife is a teacher in District 2. She says a record number of teachers have moved out of Richland this year.

  3. Doug Ross

    Wonder how vocal Joel would be if he wasn’t retiring? The rest of the gutless wonders in Richland County are typical “as long as they don’t steal TOO much, we’ll just ignore it” wimps.

    1. Barry

      Look at Leon Howard and Darrell Jackson. Two bigger gutless wonders would be hard to find. Those guys would be better off serving in elected offices in Chicago.

      1. Tex

        I was thinking Detroit, but Chicago works too. But Robert Ford kept getting re-elected so there are people out there dumber than the people they put into office. Speaking of which, is anyone running against Jim Clyburn this year?

    2. Tex

      Exactly, he reminds me of the team player who blasts the entire organization once he’s walking out the door and no longer involved in the ongoing problem inwhich he participated. Term limits would do wonders and Richland County could be the poster child example.


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