NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A longtime City of North Charleston employee is accusing North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey of inappropriate sexual advances both before and during her time working for the city.
DeLisa Reynolds and Keith Summey have known each other for decades. In the late 1990’s DeLisa and her husband at the time, along with Keith, and his wife, Deborah, owned a post office together on E. Montague Avenue in North Charleston.
“So, the four of us renovated, we did work, we ran businesses, we opened a post office,” Reynolds said. “I took that service on.”
Being self-employed, Reynolds said she was concerned about her lack of health insurance. That’s when the Summeys offered her a part-time job working as a receptionist for the City of North Charleston in 2001.
At that time, Summey had been mayor for around seven years.
Throughout her time working for the city, Reynolds moved up the ranks from a part-time receptionist to a secretary a year later and then to an administrative assistant in 2006, a special events coordinator in 2016. Earlier this year she became archives and history coordinator.
Reynolds claims the sexual advances by Mayor Summey started before Reynolds began working at the city. She said they began at the post office the Reynolds and Summeys owned together.
“I was at the post office working and he came in. And I went into the closet and he followed me. and that’s where it all began. It was groping. and kissing me,” Reynolds said.
She approximates the time frame of that was in the summer of 1999. She said “it was so many” times that she can’t say exactly how many times it happened.
She said things progressed over the following years, never completely stopped and Summey would still make comments up until this November.
Reynolds said she was never comfortable reporting the alleged harassment out of fear of retaliation.
“I didn’t have anyone to report that to,” she said. “At that time, it was a man’s world. HR was a man director that was very close with the people in the executive department. So, I didn’t think I was safe enough to say that or would I lose my job for saying that to HR? I didn’t want my family to know what was going on. I didn’t want my children to know, my husband. So, I just kept it.”
Reynolds considered leaving her job, but was concerned about finding the same amount of money and a job she liked as much as her city job.
“Abuse of Power”
Reynolds said she started noticing what she describes as an “abuse of power” by Summey and other executive staffers at the city.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever really noticed so much of it until it actually happened to me directly,” Reynolds said. “Because I was dedicated to the city and the mayor. My goal always was to make sure my job reflected on him as me doing a good job for the city. It was to make him and the city look good.”
During her time working in the executive department, Reynolds said things would stick out to her.
“You notice promotions and things going on and people that were getting more than what others weren’t getting for doing double the work,” she said. “Other people were coming in because they were friends or whatever. Granted, I was a friend of the mayor as well and the family. So I felt ‘well, they’re protecting me by offering me a position.'”
She said she really started to notice the “abuse of power” when she saw other women becoming involved.
“Just by the way they would disappear together,” she said. “But I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought.”
Reynolds’ job was switched and she began working at Riverfront Park, something she did not enjoy at first because she felt isolated.
“Maybe that’s because I was starting to see things a little bit differently,” she said.
Things take a turn
Reynolds never planned on coming forward with the allegations. She told News 2 she planned to stop working for the city at the end of Summey’s current term, which ends in 2023.
“I had already started making a two-and-a-half-year plan,” she said. “That when the mayor left, I would go too. And I would go silently. And they wouldn’t let me finish out my tenure that way.”
Last October, Reynolds’ adult son made a negative comment on social media about Elliot Summey, Mayor Summey’s son.
Reynolds believes her son’s action had a direct impact on her, even though she told the Summey family that those were her son’s beliefs and words and did not reflect her own.
“I took a direct hit,” she said. “My workload got different, I did things that I should not have had to do as a salaried employee. I put in a lot of extra hours that I should not have to do. When they stopped talking to me back in October, things were building and building and I was being scrutinized with everything I did.”
Fast forward to the beginning of 2022, Reynolds was removed from her role of being a special event coordinator at Riverfront Park and given a new role. She said the job was created for her.
Reynolds’ new title is archives and history coordinator — a job she says she’s not qualified for nor did she want or ask for.
Then, in February 2022, Reynolds filed a formal complaint to the city detailing what she calls the abuse of power.
Reynolds is upset and frustrated and has changed the way she is thinking about her future.
That’s why she decided to come forward with these allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct and abuse of power.
“I started to rethink…this is not the life I want to live,” she said.
A press release sent to News 2 by Reynolds’ layers said if a formal investigation is not made into the allegations, Reynolds will take legal action.
The City of North Charleston responded with the following statement on Sunday. They declined a request for comment on Monday:
“On January 14, 2022, Ms. Reynolds was notified of a lateral move to Archives and History Coordinator. This transfer did not negatively affect Ms. Reynolds’ pay or benefits with the city. Ms. Reynolds’ complaint was received shortly thereafter.
Part-time receptionist – 2001
Secretary – 2002
Administrative Assistant – 2006
Special Events Coordinator – 2016
Archives and History Coordinator – 2022
Mayor Summey and the City deny the allegations raised by Ms. Reynolds’ lawyer and will not comment further on threatened or pending litigation.”
Reynolds is currently on leave from her job as part of the Family and Medical Leave Act due to medical issues. She was approved for leave on Jan. 21, was reevaluated on April 14. Her leave was extended until June 24.