By Paul Gable
Recent disclosures in a story by MyHorryNews.com about issues surrounding the termination of employment of Horry County Council member Cam Crawford at Coastal Carolina University raise a number of questions about the way of politics in Horry County.
The report stated, according to public documents acquired through Freedom of Information Act request, Crawford was terminated for alleged sexual misconduct with a student who was also an employee of the department in which Crawford worked. This misconduct included unwanted touching and kissing on the head.
The student reportedly reported these incidents to Crawford’s supervisor and the university instituted a Title IX investigation into Crawford’s actions. According to the documents received through FOIA, the report stated the results of the investigation concluded, “the evidence does support a finding that Mr. Crawford violated University policies UNIV-466 Title IX Statement of Non-Discrimination and UNIV-468 Sexual Misconduct Policy.”
Crawford was quoted in an email response to comment by MyHorryNews.com as stating, “Political correctness or standing too close to someone’s safe space should not cost anyone their job, but that’s what happened. My southern mannerisms, friendly gestures, and normal greetings amongst friends were used against me. The cancel culture phenomenon cost me my job.”
Several of the local political hacks, commenting on the story on Facebook, supported Crawford referring to the story as a political hit job.
What is striking about the comments made by Crawford, including a formal statement he requested the university include in his file, is that nowhere was he quoted as expressing regret or an apology for his actions causing discomfort to the student employee involved.
Whatever Crawford did, he made a young student and employee (male or female) under his supervision feel uncomfortable by his actions. The Southern mannerisms Crawford so quickly invoked also include apologizing for causing such discomfort regardless of your original intent.
Crawford owed the victim a public apology, which never came.
Instead, within days of being notified of the investigation, Crawford reportedly had a law firm send a letter to the university requesting secrecy.
A portion of the quotes MyHorryNews used from that letter state, “Mr. Crawford is particularly concerned that CCU will not maintain this investigation as confidentially as possible. This could have a very damaging effect on Mr. Crawford and his wife who are both elected public servants.”
The attorney letter also requested the university share information about the investigation on a strict ‘need to know’ basis.
Ultimately, according to the story, Crawford and the university reached a settlement agreement that included Crawford resigning his position at CCU effective November 15, 2019, the original date of notification to him of the investigation. However, most of Horry County, including the constituents of Crawford as Horry County Council member for District 5 and his wife Heather Crawford’s constituents in SC House District 68 had no inkling of his termination from CCU until news began leaking on social media within the past couple of months.
Both Crawford and his wife faced reelection challenges for their respective offices in June 2020. Is transparency in government and from the politicians elected to serve important to voters? Could the information included in the investigation findings and termination of Crawford influenced either of these races or both?
Did CCU, an institution that receives grants from both county government and state government, act in the best interests of the taxpayers who fund these grants by keeping the investigation and results secret for so long?
Heather and Cam Crawford are partners in the local campaign consulting business Crescent Communications with SC Rep. Russell Fry, an announced candidate for the SC 7th Congressional District seat currently held by Tom Rice.
Before being elected to the SC House, Heather Crawford worked on constituent services for SC Rep. Alan Clemmons, for which she was paid from Clemmons’ campaign account approximately $150,000 total over a period of five years. Her position was essential, according to statements made by Clemmons in 2020. However, when Heather Crawford left the position at the end of 2012, this essential position was eliminated.
Both Fry and Clemmons were up for reelection in 2020 and Clemmons now wants to be a judge. Could their reelections or Clemmons judgeship application have been affected by their associations with Crawford if the indiscretions had become public knowledge?
As previously stated, CCU receives grants from both county and state tax dollars. Former CCU President David DeCenzo contributed to the campaigns of Heather Crawford, Fry and Clemmons, according to public records of the SC Ethics Commission.
Most interesting is Heather Crawford received a campaign donation from DeCenzo on November 25, 2019, only 10 days after the investigation into Cam Crawford’s actions was launched by CCU and six days after the date of the letter from the law firm acting on Crawford’s behalf warning CCU to keep the complaint and investigation on “a strict need to know” basis.
Are these various associations and donations merely a great big coincidence or were they done to politically help the various players?
It probably makes no difference if the public doesn’t ‘need to know’.