Sheriff Will Lewis addresses sexual assault allegations, lawsuit at news conference.
Until 2015, the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association had no method to remove or suspend a sheriff’s membership.
Now it does, and it may use it to take action against Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis, said Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the Sheriff’s Association.
“We urge all Sheriffs to achieve and maintain the highest levels of professionalism, ethics, and integrity,” Bruder said in a written statement. “We do not – in any way – condone any actions that are illegal, immoral, or improper. Therefore, we are currently looking in to what can be done in relation to Sheriff Lewis’s membership in this Association.”
Any action taken against Lewis would be the first time the association has used its ability to remove a sheriff’s membership since its bylaws were changed in 2015, Bruder said.
The decision would require support from the organization’s board of directors, each of whom are sheriffs in the state, and as such, are Lewis’s peers. It would also require support from the association’s members, Bruder said.
The decision would be based on Lewis’s admission last week to a "consensual encounter" with a former Sheriff’s Office employee. It would not be based on any of the allegations included in a lawsuit the former employee filed last week against Lewis, Bruder said.
Savannah Nabors, the former employee, accused Lewis of sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking. Lewis has denied the allegations and said he plans to continue to serve as sheriff.
The Greenville News does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Nabors went public with her allegations in a blog on a family member’s website earlier this year.
The Sheriff’s Association exists to serve the sheriffs of the state, to provide training for sheriff’s offices and to lobby on behalf of sheriff’s offices at the Statehouse. It invites the sheriffs from all 46 South Carolina counties to be regular members, Bruder said.
In addition, the association has 17,000 honorary members, who are members of the public that support the organization, Bruder said.
Bruder said the board would have to figure out whether action against Lewis would affect training opportunities for deputies in the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.
"I don’t know that we’re necessarily going to hold it against the Sheriff’s Office as a whole, but it’s more in relation to the ability (for Lewis) to vote on matters within the association and the ability to attend training events and stuff for the sheriff," Bruder said.
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