Rep. Cleary rebuts, files suit against ex-partner

S.C. Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, is fighting back against accusations that he was involved in stealing property from a Murrells Inlet restaurant.

Three weeks ago, a report was filed against Cleary, his wife Lisa Cleary, and three others involved in the operation of Fontinello's Restaurant, accusing them of selling property involved in a lien.

Earlier this week Cleary filed his own report with the Georgetown County Sherriff's Office, accusing his accuser, Gary Lee Roberts, of providing false information to police.

And the Clearys also filed a lawsuit against Roberts on Tuesday for libel/slander.

Roberts said in the report he filed earlier this month that he, Cleary, and two others had formed an LLC to operate Fontinello's in September 2010.

He said that in October of 2010 he was "forced by Raymond Cleary to sell 15 percent of his partnership to Lisa Cleary, leaving Roberts with 10 percent of the company and making the Cleary couple the majority shareholders.

Last month the partners decided to close the business, Roberts stated in his report.

He said the other partners began removing the inventory from the property, which they were not allowed to do because it was under a Uniform Commercial Code property lien agreement with First Federal Savings and Loan.

Roberts said he had previously provided the information about the property agreement to all the partners, warned them that the items were part of the lien and reminded them of it again as they removed property.

But Cleary said he should never have been mentioned in the report.

He said in his report that he sold his share of the LLC to his wife in November and was no longer involved in the LLC.

The report said Cleary pointed out specific information within the Roberts' report which he stated were "made by Gary Roberts, while knowing them to be false."

Cleary went on to say that "contrary to information in the incident report filed by Gary Roberts, he was never the managing partner of the LLC. That between October - November 2010 he sold his [interest] in the LLC to his wife and therefore at that time had no remaining interest in the LLC. He has never contacted anyone about selling any of the equipment from the restaurant," according to the report.

Cleary also said in the report that "he felt that the statements in the incident report were made because of his political position."

"This is an attempt to discredit me. Which I can take." Cleary said. "But what's been done to my wife and kids I cannot take."

He said the accusations were an attempt to discredit him because elections are coming up in 2012.

Cleary said he has worked hard for his community and "for Mr. Roberts to try to ruin that because he wanted to be vindictive...that'll come out in court."

He said he did not know the damages being sought in the suit but that they were "substantial."

Calls to Cleary's attorney David DuRant were not returned.

Roberts said he had no comment.