April 1, 2014

Ex-Georgetown County employee charged with embezzlement

Georgetown County’s former economic development director was arrested Tuesday and charged with embezzlement of public funds related to his work in that county.

Georgetown County’s former economic development director was arrested Tuesday and charged with embezzlement of public funds related to his work in that county.

The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office says Wayne Gregory, 36, who now lives in Columbia, used a Georgetown County purchasing card to misappropriate funds from Georgetown County between January 2010 and September 2013. He embezzled more than $100,000 from Georgetown County during his employment and used the money for his own use, according to the Sheriff’s Office’s news release.

Gregory, who worked as Georgetown County’s economic development director from 2005 to 2013, was charged Tuesday with embezzlement of public funds over $10,000.

The Sheriff’s Office said it met with Gregory at his apartment in Columbia on Tuesday and, along with the Columbia Police Department, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, searched Gregory’s apartment, and he was arrested. He is being transported to the Georgetown County Detention Center to await a bond hearing.

The Georgetown County Administrator’s Office notified the Sheriff’s Office about a month ago that Gregory had made a number of fraudulent purchases while he was economic development director, according to the release. The Sheriff’s Office then started the investigation that led to Gregory’s arrest.

County Administrator Sel Hemingway could not be reached for comment.

Georgetown County Council chairman Johnny Morant said council members have been asked not to speak about the case.

“Even though he’s been arrested,” Morant said, “the investigation has not been concluded yet.”

Georgetown County spokeswoman Jackie Broach said the county is reviewing its policies for the use of its credit cards and has hired a consultant to see if they can be strengthened.

“We are taking this matter very seriously,” she said.

Broach said she has no reason to believe that investigators will find more alleged embezzlement, or that more charges might be expected.

Police said the embezzlement period extended to September, when Gregory left Georgetown for the Columbia job.

Columbia city manager Teresa Wilson said she has ordered an internal review of Gregory’s work in Columbia because of the accusations from Georgetown.

Gregory was a key hire for Wilson to lead a renewed effort to attract more business and jobs to Columbia.

On Tuesday, she announced his firing in a prepared statement. Gregory replaced former economic development director Jim Gambrell, who had served in that post since 1993 until his retirement last year.

Wilson said in the statement that Ryan Coleman will be the acting economic development director and will serve in that role until further notice.

Coleman is the city’s development and business manager in the Economic Development Department, she wrote.

Gregory’s salary was $110,000, Columbia’s personnel director said Tuesday. But his incentive package allowed him to earn an extra 5 percent if he met specified standards. It was unclear Tuesday if Gregory qualified for any extra income from Columbia.

He also has worked in Greenville County’s development corporation, Columbia officials said. His college degrees include one in government and political science from Furman and a master’s in public administration from Clemson.

As project manager for the Greenville Area Development Corp., Gregory made presentations to commissions, civic groups and the general public. He assisted with projects that gathered at least 2,671 jobs in Greenville County, Tommy Edwards, then-Georgetown county administrator, said when Gregory was hired in Georgetown during the summer of 2005.

Georgetown was experiencing a population boom during the mid-2000s and was attracting more jobs each year. But the county had struggled with double-digit unemployment figures for a few years during the early part of that decade.

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