News13 Exclusive: Florence Co. sheriff slams county council, accuses council of negligence

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – In documents obtained exclusively by News13, Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone slams Florence County Council, accusing members of ‘underhanded tactics’, ‘wasteful spending’, and negligence related to giving raises to county employees.

News13 obtained a scathing e-mail sent by Sheriff Boone, from his county account, to members of council on December 11, 2018, one month after Sheriff Boone appeared before council to request pay raises for his department.

“I felt the need to address some inaccurate information that has been put out about me by members of County Council and Florence County Administration,” Sheriff Boone’s e-mail began.

Sheriff Boone then refers to an online blog called “FITSNews”, which wrote that a source close to council said that Boone embarrassed council members in public when he allegedly invited a large group of law enforcement officers to show up at the November 15, 2018 council meeting, to request pay raises. Boone then includes part of the blog article that suggests the source said, “then we come to find out how he is spending all that money he could be spending on raises for his deputies.”

Boone says in the e-mail that, “it has always been a steadfast rule that seizure money CANNOT be spent on salaries or to pay employees, without exception”.

Boone then explains how his county vehicles have always been purchased out of seizure funds, along with undercover vehicles for narcotics agents to be used for drug enforcement. Boone said that he has had 5 vehicles purchased for his use using seizure money, “which is completely allowable under the guidelines for how seizure money can be spent”.

Boone went on to write, “If seizure money COULD be spent on salaries or raises, I would happily split that money amongst my employees every year”.

Boone then writes, “the only time County Council thinks about us or acknowledges us is when they need us because one of their businesses has been broken into or someone in their family has been assaulted or is the victim of a crime. But we always respond and provide assistance when they call us, even though they do not care about us”.

Boone then accuses council of trying to deflect attention away from themselves and put blame on him.

He claims council was engaging in ‘underhanded tactics’, “hoping that they can get by without having to give them the raises”.

Boone then mentions the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which was used during the deadly October 2018 ambush, to assist law enforcement officers who had been shot. Boone said council members were ‘very opposed’ to getting the vehicle.

Boone says the MRAP was given to the department through military surplus and did not cost the sheriff’s office anything. He also said it proved its usefulness during the October ambush, to rescue and evacuate wounded officers.

Then, Boone referred to libraries and other projects as examples of ‘wasteful spending’ by county council:

“…They are the ones that voted to approve the soccer complex which has been a complete failure and burden on taxpayers, not to mention all the statues, libraries, and other wasteful spending that have taken funds away from raises for employees.”

“The bottom line is that Council has overlooked us,” Boone continued, “and been negligent in giving raises to County employees for over a decade, and when I called their hand on it they respond by attacking me personally and starting unfounded rumors.”

A council member told News13 Thursday that county council gave $1 million from the Capital Sales Tax II project that was approved by taxpayers, to the soccer complex. We’re told that money from the county helped with roads and infrastructure for the complex project, and can’t be used for salaries. The council member also tells News13 that no general fund money was ever contributed from county to the soccer complex. That’s not allowable, the council member told News13. General fund money is used for things like deputy pay raises. 

That member of council also told News13 Thursday that county council did approve raises for deputies within the past 6 years.

Near the end of his e-mail, Boone told council members that he is “not dying, as has been reported about me recently”. 

“I am just getting started with this and I will not sit back and allow people to make unfounded accusations or statements against me or my family. If you have any questions about me personally or my office, don’t talk behind my back, talk to me in person.”

News13 reached out to Sheriff Boone through e-mail Tuesday afternoon, and through his office phone and cell phone on Wednesday morning, to ask questions about his e-mail to council. We have yet to hear back from him as of Friday morning.

We did receive an immediate response from Florence County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith Jr. on Wednesday. He reiterated to News13 that Act 388 is a challenge that council members have faced, with regards to law enforcement pay. The state law puts a cap on the amount of taxes local governments can raise.

“If there’s no population growth,” Rep. Murrell Smith, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, told News13 previously, “there’s no inflation and obviously they’re not allowed to raise taxes in those areas. So, that constrains their ability.”

This information was brought up during Florence County Council’s meeting in December 2018, after Boone’s e-mail was sent to council members.

In January 2019, the sheriff’s office also asked for traffic unit funding, which led to discussions at a council meeting about that request along with the existing pay raise request.

“Rusty” Smith says that the number one priority for council is to protect the lives of those in Florence County. He says council is, and has been, very supportive of its deputies, and will continue to be.

He added that council recently met with Rep. Murrell Smith to discuss similar financial topics, including the Local Government Fund, in hopes of getting closer to a resolution for this pay raise issue.

When asked about Sheriff Boone’s accusations of ‘underhanded tactics’ and ‘wasteful spending’ regarding county actions, “Rusty” Smith chose not to comment.

If we receive a response from Sheriff Boone on the e-mail he sent to council, we will include that information. The full e-mail can be found at the bottom of this article.

This was not the first time in 2018 that Sheriff Boone criticized council.

In August of 2018, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office investigated voicemails left by Sheriff Boone for Florence County Finance Director Kevin Yokim, in which Boone allegedly left several alarming messages.

The Attorney General’s Office said the messages could have been interpreted as either a physical threat or just unprofessional:

“Kevin, this is Kenney Boone. You call me back immediately. If I don’t get a phone call back, I’m gonna send a deputy around your house or wherever you are to find your a- – . Call me now!”

“I’m telling you, payback is going to be Hell, I promise ya.”

After reviewing the voicemails, the Attorney General’s Office determined that they did not meet the requirements for criminal charges.

Count on News13 for updates on pay raise discussions in Florence County as we receive them.

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