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2 SC sheriffs seek re-election amid troubles

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Suspended Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood has filed for a third term. File/Provided

COLUMBIA — Two South Carolina sheriffs who faced recent troubles have filed for re-election in their respective counties.

Suspended Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood filed Monday for a third term, The Herald of Rock Hill reported.

Underwood was indicted last year on federal charges, including civil rights violations. Prosecutors said he filed a false police report and lied to authorities to justify jailing a man who refused to stop videotaping following a police chase, prosecutors said.

He also faces state charges that he took money meant to pay overtime for his deputies and had officers convert his barn into a flashy man cave while they were on the clock, according to prosecutors.

Some of the state grand jury’s findings mirrored what The Post and Courier revealed in its “Above the Law” investigation last year, which showed how a startling number of sheriffs across South Carolina lined their pockets on the public’s dime, tried to silence whistleblowers and bullied other public officials who questioned their behavior.

Among the newspaper’s discoveries: Underwood and chief deputy Robert Sprouse flew first class in 2017 to a sheriffs conference in Reno, Nev. They took their wives, charging $5,627 on the county’s credit card. When they landed, they hired a $353 chauffeur to take them to and from the airport, a roughly 2-mile trip.

Underwood has pleaded not guilty in both cases. He was allowed to file because only candidates who have been convicted of a felony cannot run for office, South Carolina Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire told The Herald.

Meanwhile, after saying in February that he would not seek a fourth term, Union County Sheriff David Taylor announced this week in a statement received by news outlets that he's running for reelection.

Taylor had requested a State Law Enforcement Division investigation into accounting irregularities discovered within the sheriff's office in February 2018. The investigation found that there were "several flaws" in how Taylor managed the department, but criminal charges were not recommended. He had been accused of making sexually inappropriate comments and requesting that employees buy him alcohol while on duty.

Taylor said some community members and his deputies asked him to reconsider another run for sheriff, according to news outlets. He also said that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, "it is NOT the time for Union County to elect a Sheriff to get on the job training," according to his statement.

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