By Paul Gable
One week ago, local media posted stories on events surrounding the dismissal, in November 2019, of Horry County Council member Cam Crawford from his position at Coastal Carolina University.
According to the stories and documents released by CCU, an investigation into Title IX complaints by a female student who also worked under the supervision of Crawford was conducted by the university. Findings from that investigation supported ‘continuous physical contact with student employee supervisees, which included hugging and touching of hand and/or arm,’ and evidence supporting ‘kissing of a student employee’s head’.
Crawford responded to questions from the media claiming the woman misinterpreted his “Southern mannerisms”, that he did not believe he did anything wrong and that there were political motivations behind the media being informed of his dismissal from CCU.
Nevertheless, a female student registered a complaint with the university, the university conducted an investigation and Crawford is no longer employed by CCU.
Crawford’s response brings to mind statements by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo when Cuomo resigned as governor after 11 women came forward claiming Cuomo had sexually harassed them.
Cuomo was quoted in media as stating, “As an Italian, I have always kissed and hugged in a casual way, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone… I accept full responsibility, I slipped, but there are political motivations behind the accusations, and I am sure New Yorkers will understand,”
Strikingly similar statements from two politicians on opposite ends of the political spectrum, except Cuomo took responsibility while Crawford did not.
But the similarities between the two cases end there. Once women began stepping forward with accusations against Cuomo, stories continued in the New York media, Cuomo’s former political allies distanced themselves from him and ultimately Cuomo resigned as governor.
In Horry County, Crawford’s leaving CCU employ remained a secret for two years and there has been virtually no comment from other local politicians.
Freedom of Information requests to CCU from two local newspapers were handled completely differently. According to a story in the Sun News, the newspaper filed a FOIA request with the university in October 2021, requesting documents related to “any disciplinary action taken by Coastal…including notices of termination or suspension, reprimands , etc.” as well as “any complaints or other documents submitted to Coastal by students, staff, professors, administration or the public regarding Mr. Crawford, his employment, his job performance and his conduct/behavior.”
According to a story, CCU’s response to the request by the Sun News stated a search (of university records) “did not yield any documents containing the information you requested.”
Shortly after, a similar request from MyHorryNews.com resulted in release of the documents quoted in various stories. No explanation from CCU has been forthcoming as to why there were different responses to two similar FOIA requests on the Crawford case. Frankly, there is no suitable explanation.
Local Republican activist Chad Caton, in a recent video on his “I’m Fired Up” Facebook page, posited a possibility on why the Sun News request was denied. As Caton stated, Crawford’s wife, Heather Crawford, is a state representative who sits on the SC House Ways and Means Committee. The Ways and Means Committee writes the state budget each year and CCU receives grants from the state.
Was any pressure applied to CCU behind the scenes to keep Crawford’s dismissal and the reasons for it from public view or was it a mistake on the part of CCU to deny any documents related to the Sun News request?
As a public institution of higher education, CCU receives grants of public money from both the state and county governments. In addition, CCU receives a portion of the revenue generated from the local one penny sales tax for education. That tax is due to be voted on again by local citizens in a referendum on the November 2022 general election ballot.
CCU owes the public an explanation of why the two FOIA requests were handled so differently and the reasons behind that difference or, maybe, the upcoming one penny referendum should exclude CCU from receiving any of the proceeds.
The public has a right to know of the actions and consequences of politicians it elects to office.
And why the great silence of other local politicians with whom Crawford has relationships?
Crawford and his wife are business partners with Rep. Russell Fry in the local political consulting firm Crescent Communications. Fry is now a candidate for the SC 7th Congressional District Republican nomination. What is Fry’s position on the actions of Crawford and his dismissal?
Mark Lazarus used Crescent Communications for his unsuccessful campaign for reelection as county council chairman in 2018. Lazarus is again a county chairman candidate in the upcoming 2022 election. What is his position on Crawford’s actions and dismissal?
Former state representative and current candidate for the judicial position of Horry County Master in Equity Alan Clemmons was very vocal when challenging state senate candidate John Gallman with false accusations of domestic abuse two years ago when Gallman pushed incumbent Sen. Luke Rankin to a primary runoff election. Clemmons held a rally against Gallman in the parking lot of Fry’s law firm.
What does Clemmons have to say about the Crawford issue?
What about Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune. Bethune was very vocal at the above-mentioned rally saying, among other comments, ‘These women must be believed.’ Are only certain women to be believed or is it a case of some politicians get a pass from their buddies while others are publicly condemned for actions they didn’t commit?
What of Crawford’s fellow members on county council, seven of whom come up for re-election next year? Are they comfortable with one of their members having been determined to have “violated University policies UNIV-466 Title IX Statement of Non-Discrimination and UNIV-468 Sexual Misconduct Policy” after an investigation by CCU authorities?
The public has a right to know the position of their elected or would be representatives on the Crawford issue and their position of future funding for CCU.