COLUMBIA — The State Grand Jury Thursday afternoon indicted former Denmark mayor Elona Carolyn Davis on two counts of misconduct in office, offenses that could send her to prison for up to 10 years if convicted.
S.C. Attorney General Charlie Condon in a news release said Davis was charged with illegally selling tracts of timber belonging to the city of Denmark. The indictment alleges that Davis sold the property "with knowledge of an IRS tax lien regarding city funds, and/or without following proper procedure, and/or without contracts, and/or without proper accounting of said funds to the city of Denmark, and/or purporting to represent fraudulent and/or forged documents as valid, all while acting in her capacity as mayor."
The indictment also charges Davis with "keeping improper records regarding city of Denmark expenses, and/or making improper bank transfers, and/or improperly paying state benefits to independent contractors, and/or allowing the city of Denmark to pay personal and family bills (e.g., non-city telephone calls and non-city utility bills), and/or using city property for non-city purposes.
All alleged offenses occurred while Davis was acting in her capacity as mayor, according to the indictments.
Misconduct in office, a common law offense, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Davis could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The case was investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division and will be prosecuted by the S.C. Attorney General's Office.
"South Carolina has been plagued in recent years by cases of misconduct in office," Condon said. "Public officials who misuse the authority of their office for personal gain undermine the confidence of the people in government itself."
He added, however, that Davis is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Second Judicial Circuit Solicitor Barbara Morgan asked the State Grand Jury to investigate the financial problems of Denmark. In presenting documented evidence to the State Grand Jury, Solicitor Morgan said, "This fits within their purview since one of their specific duties is to investigate public corruption."
There had been an ongoing investigation of Davis and the financial affairs of Denmark for almost two years by SLED, the FBI, the State Ethics Commission, the Forestry Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.
Davis had been the center of the investigation, and in a 4-2 vote in a special hearing on Dec. 15, 2001, members of the Denmark City Council found that, "there is cause to effectuate the forfeiture of the office of Mayor Elona Carolyn Davis."
Mayor Pro Tem Earline Williams, who presided over the hearings, said council "found that several violations of the law occurred."
The official decision of Denmark City Council came in a letter Dec. 17, 2001, from Denmark city attorney Eleazer Carter to the attorneys for city council, W. Scott Palmer and Dwight C. Moore, and to Davis's attorney Charles Boykin, announcing that, "A decision for forfeiture is hereby declared." Carter also said that the decision of council on Dec. 15, 2001, was to take effect immediately. "As of that time, Mayor Elona Carolyn Davis was no longer the mayor of Denmark," he said.
The administrative proceedings against Davis were initiated by action of the council Aug. 20, 2001, in accordance with section 5-7-200 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.
T&D Correspondent Vic Whetstone can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 803-793-3402.