Legislative panel takes up Gethers investigation

November 26 21:16 2018 Print This Article

The Charleston County Legislative Delegation began an ad hoc committee investigation on the child molestation case involving former Charleston County School District (CCSD) employee Marvin Gethers. CCSD’s information technology department detected more than 9500 pornographic images on his school laptop during a routine virus scan in January 2014. After a brief period of administrative leave, Gethers was re-instated and later promoted in October 2014. He was later awarded a car after being selected as CCSD Classified Employee of the Year. In 2016, he was charged with child molestation by the families of two Dunston Elementary School students and arrested by the North Charleston Police Department. One of the families was awarded a $300,000 legal settlement. Gethers died in 2017 while awaiting trial.

The ad hoc committee is chaired by Representative Marvin Pendarvis, whose North Charleston district includes Dunston Elementary. Pendarvis said at the first committee meeting at North Charleston City Hall Monday, “It’s important to find out what happened, how it happened and why it happened. It’s our responsibility to get to the bottom of this.”

The Gethers case was broken by Live 5 News reporter Carter Coyle in August 2018 after repeated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Committee member Senator Marlon Kimpson, who represents most of North Charleston, expressed frustration about CCSD’s failure to follow the timetable called for in the FOIA law. Former CCSD communications staff member Karen Black stated that there were open discussions during her four years on the job about not responding to FOIA requests. She said the district had a “cancerous work culture” and that it routinely condones poor management practices. Kimpson said that no criminal action can be taken against a government entity for failing to comply with the FOIA law. A civil suit may be filed against the government entity, and the plaintiff can get re-imbursed for legal fees if it wins the suit.

Several speakers at the public hearing questioned CCSD’s selection of attorney Wilbur Johnson of the Clement Young Rivers law firm to conduct the internal investigation of the Gethers case. Johnson was part of the Coalition For Kids non-profit group which spent more than $600,000 advocating for the re-election of school board incumbents. School activist Susan Ash said, “They (CCSD) are covering up the cover-ups.” Representative-elect Krystle Simmons, who serves on the committee, said, “The people covering this up are more concerned about themselves than they are about the children.” The Johnson investigation has not yet been turned over to the ad hoc committee.