In January, there will be a new Sheriff in town and outgoing Sheriff Ricky Chastain is doing what he can to ensure the transition is a smooth one.
As part of the transition, Chastain has requested that the State Law Enforcement Division perform an audit of all evidence and funds in the Sheriff’s Office. Administrative Capt. Mickey Coats, who is helping organize the audit, said he is just waiting for SLED to respond with its schedule.
“We’ve requested it through SLED and are waiting to hear back from them,” Coats said. “It’ll probably take about a week to finish but we want to get it done by the end of the year.”
Coats said the audit will include a full inventory of all evidence being stored at the LCSO, as well as any drug money being held at the Laurens County Treasurer’s Office. He said the county conducts financial audits on the Sheriff’s Office every year as part of the budget process but that SLED’s audit will help create a definitive transition point between Chastain’s administration and Reynolds’.
“This is usually what’s supposed to happen to cover both sheriffs,” he said.
SLED spokesperson Thom Berry said the audit is routine as part of the transition to a new sheriff and that SLED currently has no open criminal investigations into the LCSO or Chastain.
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo said his office is not involved in any investigations either, pointing out that his job is to prosecute suspects who have been charged by SLED or other law enforcement agencies.
“As the Eighth Circuit Solicitor, I lead a criminal prosecution agency representing the citizens of the State of South Carolina,” he said. “I do not lead an investigative agency, that is simply not my role in the criminal justice system.
“If and when an investigative agency such as the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) conducts an investigation, they routinely consult with my prosecutors on next steps and charging decisions,” he continued. “As of this (Tuesday) afternoon, I have not been consulted by SLED on any investigative matter involving the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office.”
“We have already been in contact with Laurens County Administration and the State Law Enforcement Division to request a full and complete independent audit and inventory of all matters under the direction of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office,” Chastain said in a release last week. “My administrative staff has also been instructed to assist Sheriff-elect Reynolds with any matters he may need to effectively begin his administration on Jan. 3, 2017 without any hindrances.”
Chastain said he hopes the audit can be completed as close to the end of the year as possible. He said an official handoff would take place at a time when Reynolds and other county officials can be on hand to verify that everything is done according to state law.
In the meantime, he said he wishes Reynolds well in his future position and encouraged citizens to work together despite political differences.
“It has truly been a pleasure serving Laurens County for 27 years and an honor for 16 of those to be as your sheriff,” he said. “I would like to publicly congratulate Don Reynolds on becoming Sheriff-elect of Laurens County. The election is over and Don Reynolds will be my sheriff and your sheriff beginning Jan. 3. I ask that Laurens County citizens unite with me to support Sheriff-elect Reynolds, our sheriff’s office and our men and women who will be risking their lives daily to protect and serve us.”