COLUMBIA (AP) — A South Carolina sheriff was indicted Wednesday after authorities said his chief deputy reported he was using county funds and drug seizure money to buy groceries, window tinting and other personal items.
Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone was charged with two felony counts of embezzlement and a misdemeanor count of misconduct in office, and then suspended by the governor.
At a bond hearing later in the day, a judge ordered Boone under electronic monitoring and at least a week of house arrest after a prosecutor said sheriff’s office employees who cooperated with the investigation were worried he might retaliate against them.
Gov. Henry McMaster suspended Boone from office and appointed Billy Barnes to serve as interim sheriff. Barnes gave a statement to reporters saying he wanted to restore confidence in the agency he led from 1974 to 1993 and praised the second in command who reported what he thought his boss was doing wrong to state agents.
“I commend Chief Deputy Glenn Kirby for doing what is right even at the risk of jeopardizing his own career,” Barnes said.
Boone spent the public money on a wide range of items, including bicycle and baseball equipment, coolers, tools and floor mats, according to the indictments.
The documents list places Boone shopped, including Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Mainstream Boutique and Rapid Weight Loss.
The indictment doesn’t give the exact amount Boone spent but says it is less than $20,000.
Boone faces up to five years in prison if convicted of each embezzlement count and up to 10 years in prison on the misconduct charge.
Boone was arrested at the sheriff’s office Wednesday morning and was still wearing his polo shirt with the sheriff badge logo during his bond hearing Wednesday afternoon. He did not have a lawyer at the bond hearing and talked only briefly about the charges.
“This is a surprise to me,” Boone said.
The sheriff’s office said in a statement that deputies brought the criminal allegations to the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate and although the agency’s inquiry continues, there is no indication anyone else in the sheriff’s office is involved.
“This office has suffered a black eye today. We’re going to do everything possible to correct that,” Barnes said.
Boone is the 11th South Carolina sheriff indicted or accused of criminal activity connected to their job in the past decade. South Carolina has a sheriff in each of its 46 counties. Their crimes have ranged from using inmates for personal work to running a scheme to create fake police reports to help fix credit problems to protecting drug dealers.
Boone leads a sheriff’s office whose deputies were ambushed in October as they came to a home to question a man in a sex assault case and serve a search warrant. One Florence County deputy and one Florence city police officer coming to the aid of the wounded deputies were killed.
Boone refused to let the State Law Enforcement Division investigate the shooting, instead turning the case over to Richland County deputies. Almost every police agency in the state turns officer shooting investigations over to SLED. Boone never directly said why he didn’t want SLED to investigate the shooting.
State prosecutors also reviewed a different SLED investigation of Boone last year, refusing to press charges after Boone left angry and potentially threatening voicemails with a Florence County official who questioned his spending for a conference in Myrtle Beach.
In one voicemail, Boone told the county finance director he would send a deputy to find him if he didn’t call him back immediately and in another he told the director to never question his spending again, according to the voicemails released under the Freedom of Information Act.