Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of reported sexual misconduct that some readers may find uncomfortable.
DARLINGTON, S.C. (WBTW) — A Darlington County Sheriff’s Office captain quit his job with the Hartsville Police Department before he was set to be fired for sexual misconduct and other policy violations, according to documents newly obtained by News13 through various Freedom of Information Act requests.
Many questions arose surrounding Capt. Mark Campbell’s law enforcement career that News13 began investigating after he was initially named Darlington’s police chief in November.
Campbell is currently the Special Operations Commander for the sheriff’s office, and as of Thursday morning, is still employed by the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office.
Hartsville Police Department near-firing and resignation
The City of Hartsville requested immediate termination of then-Sgt. Mark Campbell in November 2020 as a result of an Internal Affairs investigation related to Campbell’s interactions with a Hartsville Walmart employee in September 2020, according to the newly obtained documents.
A City of Hartsville disciplinary action form dated Nov. 6, 2020 describes what led to the investigation. On Sept. 17, 2020, Campbell was on duty assisting with a shoplifting case at the Walmart at 1150 S Fourth Street in Hartsville.
Campbell allegedly “approached a Walmart associate and requested her phone number after an encounter with the associate during the time on scene,” according to documents.
The employee didn’t provide her phone number initially but gave it to Campbell eventually, documents show. Campbell allegedly began sending text messages to the associate after leaving the store and while still on-duty.
“The associate continued to receive text messages from Campbell requesting that she allow him to perform actions for her that were sexual in nature,” according to documents. He also allegedly asked the associate for sexually explicit photos.
The associate refused to meet with Campbell and then “blocked his incoming messages,” according to the documents. The last message the associate received was allegedly Campbell requesting to perform a sex act on the woman.
The associate considered getting a restraining order against Campbell, according to the documents.
“An Internal Affairs investigation ordered by [Hartsville Police] Chief [Jerry] Thompson was conducted,” according to documents. “The complaint was substantiated and corroborated based on [interviews], Walmart security camera footage, HPD officer body worn camera, and the [associate’s] cell phone text messages.”
The complaint to the police department was received from Walmart’s Asset Protection Director on Oct. 1, 2020, alleging sexual harassment, unwanted communication and possible misconduct.
Lt. Jason Privette of the Hartsville Police Department was ordered by Thompson to open an Internal Affairs investigation. On Oct. 5, 2020, police spoke to the female Walmart employee over the phone and then conducted an in-person interview with her at the Walmart on Oct. 8, 2020, according to documents.
That employee said during the Oct. 5, 2020, interview that she and another Walmart employee watched the shoplifter being arrested during the September incident. She said the two “skipped down the aisle in front of the officers” as police walked the shoplifter to the back of the store.
Later, she said the officer — later identified as Campbell — came over to her and said, “keep on doing that,” referring to skipping down the aisle, according to documents. She told police that she assumed he was joking so she also joked with him, asking Campbell if she could borrow his handcuffs.
A voluntary statement from the employee dated Oct. 8, 2020, said Campbell then asked her if she was serious, to which she responded “yes.” According to the employee, Campbell then began asking for her phone number, which she provided a short time later.
The employee said the two later exchanged messages and that she eventually sent a sexually explicit photo to Campbell following his request to do so.
Later, the employee told police that she felt pressured by Campbell and told a co-worker that she was very scared as a result of “receiving harassing messages from a police officer,” according to documents.
While another Walmart employee said the female deleted most of the 20+ text messages that she said Campbell sent her, News13 received a screenshot of the alleged last text messages sent to her by Campbell.
One message in the screenshot reads: “U should come by and let me *** you till u scream.”
Editor’s note: News13 blurred out part of the message due to its explicit nature.
Other similar messages were mentioned in interviews with various Walmart employees, according to documents.
Two other Walmart employees were interviewed by police on Oct. 22, 2020. One said he “did not believe that Campbell had any inappropriate intentions at first.” The other said she “never saw Campbell doing anything wrong and that the things that occurred were mutual between them.”
Both indicated that the conversation in the store between Campbell and the female employee appeared to begin as a joke.
The Internal Affairs investigation was completed on Oct. 28, 2020. Documents say Campbell was advised of his Garrity Rights on Nov. 6, 2020. Garrity Rights “protect public employees from being compelled to incriminate themselves during investigatory interviews conducted by their employers.”
An Internal Affairs Citizen Complaint Disposition form provided to News13 said Campbell “admitted to the Walmart accusations and stated it was a joke that went wrong.”
A disciplinary action form says based on the investigation, Campbell violated three Hartsville Police policies: Oath of office, ethics, and sexual misconduct. An Internal Affairs Disposition Notification form dated Oct. 28, 2020, says that policy violations of sexual misconduct and anti-harassment were substantiated by the department.
The form then states “immediate termination requested” and is signed by four people, including Thompson, City Manager Daniel Moore and Human Resources Director Sylvester Wallace. Below the signatures is a written note that says, “employee resigned prior to termination.”
News13 received a copy of the two-sentence resignation letter dated Nov. 6, 2020, in which Campbell said he was resigning to “pursue other career opportunities.”
In a “severance/resignation agreement” form from Hartsville — dated Nov. 6, 2020 — the city agreed to pay Campbell through that day and pay accrued vacation leave “which would normally not be paid upon termination” and continue insurance benefits through Nov. 30, 2020. The letter goes on to say, “Employee agrees to keep the information regarding the underlying facts leading up to or the existence or substance of this Agreement confidential, except as otherwise required for disclosure pursuant to law.”
The newly obtained documents include nearly 100 pages of items such as narratives from interviews with Walmart employees, Hartsville Police Department policy descriptions, the screenshot of text messages sent by Campbell and other information pertaining to the Internal Affairs investigation.
Documents previously provided to News13 in 2022 by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy merely said Campbell resigned from the Hartsville position and there was no pending criminal investigation into him or any pending criminal charges. Those documents did not elaborate on the reason for his resignation.
Darlington County Sheriff’s Office learns of Internal Affairs investigation in 2022
The Darlington County Sheriff’s Office said it was not aware of any verified complaints about inappropriate conduct against Campbell as of Dec. 28.
According to documents newly obtained by News13 from the city of Hartsville, the sheriff’s office submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Hartsville on Dec. 14, asking for any and all documents related to disciplinary actions, write-ups, and the complaint and internal investigation related to sexual harassment involving Campbell while he was with the Hartsville Police Department.
In an e-mail sent along with the FOIA request, the sheriff’s office noted that the department had met with Thompson and Moore about this situation during the week of Dec. 5, which was the same week in which News13 reported that Campbell backed out of the Darlington Police Chief position.
The city of Hartsville requested $123.75 from the sheriff’s office for the retrieval of the records and provided the related documents to the sheriff’s office on Dec. 29, more than two years after the Walmart incident.
South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy weighs in
News13 asked Academy Director “Jackie” Swindler on Thursday whether Hartsville would have been required to notify the Academy of Campbell’s Internal Affairs investigation and near-firing for agency policy violations, and in this case, the answer was “no.”
Although Hartsville called Campbell’s actions “sexual misconduct,” Swindler said Hartsville only provided the resignation letter to the Academy, but no misconduct documentation.
“It apparently did not rise to that level,” Swindler said in an interview with News13 Thursday morning. “They did not submit paperwork with an allegation of misconduct. Then that person would be eligible to be hired somewhere else if an agency wants to hire them if they do their background and due diligence. If they don’t turn in paperwork for misconduct, then they are eligible, so it just depends on what paperwork they submit.”
Swindler said the Academy would’ve had paperwork that a person “resigned in lieu of termination,” but said agencies “are not obligated to tell us he was going to be terminated.”
Swindler said the Academy relies on what’s submitted and it’s up to the next hiring agency to inquire about a candidate.
News13 asked Hartsville Human Resources Director Kimberly Jones if Hartsville notified the Academy of the requested termination and Internal Affairs Investigation involving Campbell in 2020. Jones didn’t directly answer the question but instead provided a copy of the documentation showing that Campbell resigned from the department that year.
According to Academy documents, Campbell has worked for these law enforcement agencies, from the dates listed:
- 1989 — 2017: Virginia State Police (retired)
- Jan. 3, 2017 — Dec. 1, 2017: Darlington County Sheriff’s Office (fired for policy violation)
- Jan. 1, 2019 — May 17, 2019: Darlington County Coroner’s Office (resigned)
- April 17, 2019 — Nov. 6, 2020: Hartsville Police Department (was set to be fired for policy violations but resigned)
- Jan. 5, 2021 — present: Darlington County Sheriff’s Office
Campbell announced as Darlington police chief, then backed out
In late 2022, Campbell accepted and then backed out of the Darlington Police Chief position. No reason was provided by the city. On Dec. 5, News13 asked Darlington City Manager John Payne why Campbell rejected the offer after initially accepting.
“As this is a personnel matter, I will not be able to make any further comment,” Payne said in a statement. “Thank you for understanding.”
A previous news release from Payne indicated that citizen input was used as part of the process to hire Campbell.
Following further questions, Payne said the citizen input was “not done in a public forum” and later revealed that “citizen input” meant a “small and diverse group of area residents” hand-picked by Payne.
Darlington County Sheriff’s Office firing and re-hiring
News13 previously reported that Campbell was fired from the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 for a policy violation that did not involve misconduct. Then-Sheriff Tony Chavis did not provide specifics about the firing when reached by News13 for comment in November.
A personnel action form from Campbell’s firing, previously provided to News13 by Darlington County Human Resources following a separate FOIA request, had nothing written in a section labeled “reason for actions.” It remains unclear what policy violation Campbell was fired for during his initial tenure with the sheriff’s office.
Campbell was re-hired by the sheriff’s office in January 2021, days after Sheriff James Hudson was sworn in, according to documents.
On Thursday, News13 spoke with Hudson by phone. He said he was not made aware of any “alarms” surrounding Campbell when Hudson hired Campbell in 2021, despite his questions to Hartsville.
“Upon taking office, I went to Hartsville to inquire about any alarms about Campbell and I was told “no” by the city police chief and city manager,” Hudson said. “If I had known about this before, I wouldn’t have hired him. Since he has been with us, he’s done exceptionally great work and has had no complaints.”
Hudson reiterated that he followed the standard protocol of the Academy and was told by Hartsville that there was “nothing to be alarmed about” regarding Campbell.
He said his department’s FOIA request that was sent this past December was the result of community concerns he had received around the time Campbell accepted and then backed out of the Darlington police chief position.
News13 got in contact with Campbell on Thursday. When asked about his law enforcement career, Campbell said he had no comment. When asked about his exit from the Hartsville Police Department, Campbell again said he had no comment.
News13 reached out to Thompson Thursday for comment but was told he wasn’t available.
Count on News13 for updates.