Officials: No charges coming

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — The State Law Enforcement Division has concluded its probe into the Pickens County Museum of Art and History.

County administrator Gerald Wilson told county council members Monday night that the SLED investigation had concluded.

County attorney Ken Roper read a release concerning the investigation during the council meeting.

Officials with SLED informed the county that the inquiry into the finances of the Pickens County museum concluded “with no finding of criminal wrongdoing,” Roper said.

SLED officials informed Roper last month of “the lack of any negative findings in its accounts,” Roper said.

The inquiry was opened after Gilda Hendricks, a member of the Pickens County Cultural Commission, spoke before county council earlier this year, alleging that donations made to the museum and the Hagood Mill were being diverted into the county’s general fund.

County officials denied those allegations. SLED began a preliminary inquiry into county finances. That inquiry expanded into a full investigation.

“The county fully cooperated with SLED at the outset, confident these allegations were not valid,” Roper read. “’The conclusion of the investigation supports the county’s understanding of the matter.”

Roper said that Wilson has met with the cultural commission “to reiterate the county’s commitment to the museum and to support the commission in its fundraising and event promotion goals.”

“‘Wilson believes that better communication between county staff, commission members and volunteers could have avoided this misunderstanding from the outset,’” Roper said.

At an earlier meeting, council had considered a recommendation to dissolve the cultural commission, but rejected that recommendation unanimously, with members saying they believe the commission still had a purpose to serve.

Pickens County “continues to work to make local government more transparent,” Roper read. “‘As a proactive response to the matter and to avoid confusion with the public going forward, Pickens County has begun the process of establishing separate 501(c)(3) organizations to support the museum and the Hagood Mill.

The release said that the previous system of donations “was confusing and led to misunderstanding.”

The release also said that the county has received positive feedback from the Secretary of State’s office regarding its plans to move forward.

“When this began, we were confident in the accounting procedures of this county,” county council chair Jennifer Willis said. “We’ve have 13 or 14 years of exemplary audits.”