The former Horry County Police chief refused to investigate internal reports of wrongdoing by officers in her agency and was working to undermine county councilmen, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
The allegations against Saundra Rhodes come from her internal affairs officer at the time, Matthew Darrah, who was terminated in August.
Darrah’s whistleblower retaliation complaint against the county says the former police chief refused to address reports that officers were not investigating a large number of major crime cases.
“(Darrah) continued to report to Horry County Police Chief Rhodes that there were numerous discrepancies, illegalities and violations of state and federal law by various members of the Horry County Police Department,” the lawsuit said.
Darrah’s internal investigations also revealed that “various members” of the police department falsified evidence records, the lawsuit said. When those cases reportedly were not investigated, Darrah made a formal complaint against Rhodes for failing to investigate the wrongdoing.
At one point, the lawsuit says Darrah “delivered additional information to the human resources department regarding conversations Chief Rhodes had about undermining county councilmen.”
Lisa Bourcier, Horry County spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit citing their policy against discussing pending litigation.
The lawsuit did not state which councilmen Rhodes sought to undermine, how or why. It also did not reveal the names of officers accused of wrongdoing.
However, one month after Darrah was dismissed, a grand jury convened by the South Carolina Attorney General indicted four former Horry County Police officials, two of which face charges of failing to investigate criminal cases.
The indictments against Daryl Williams say he failed to properly investigate 88 cases assigned to him, failed to properly investigate two cases of criminal sexual conduct, two cases of sexual assault and one kidnapping and sexual assault.
Former officer Todd Cox was indicted on 16 counts of misconduct in office. The indictments say Cox knowingly closed cases without proper investigation and knowingly unassigned himself from cases allowing them to remain unassigned for a period of time.
The cases the indictment says Cox closed without investigation or unassigned include criminal sexual conduct, child abuse, lynching, armed robbery, sexual exploitation of a minor, kidnapping, cruelty to children, an overdose death, shooting and attempted murder. One indictment says he failed to investigate 18 cases.
Darrah was hired as the internal affairs officer in March 2013, reporting directly to Rhodes.
The lawsuit does not say when Darrah began reporting wrongdoing, but states that he filed a formal complaint on Nov. 23, 2015, against the chief for failing to investigate.
The S.C. Law Enforcement Division opened an investigation of officers within the department the following month, and it resulted in last year’s indictments.
A new internal affairs officer was hired in May 2016. County officials said at that time that a new officer was needed because Darrah had been promoted.
Darrah had actually been demoted from a sergeant to a patrol officer enforcing tow truck ordinances after he reported his investigations to Rhodes.