Berkeley County officials would not turn over public documents Wednesday related to disciplinary actions taken against four employees faulted for an inmate's Jan. 26 escape from the county jail.
Sheriff's officials would not identify the employees or provide documentation from the department's investigation into the escape. Spokesman Dan Moon referred questions about the matter to County Attorney Nicole Ewing.
Ewing, in turn, told The Post and Courier it must submit a written Freedom of Information request for the documents. The newspaper did so late Wednesday afternoon.
Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, said the courts have ruled that such records are public. They provide important insight into how government is operating, he said.
"The public has a right to know and judge for themselves whether the discipline was fair," he said. "These are the public's employees."
Sheriff's officials revealed Monday that they fired one employee, demoted another and suspended two more as a result of the escape. The affected employees at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center in Moncks Corner failed to follow procedures, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.
An internal investigation was launched after the escape of James A. Sanders, 39, of Cypress Campground Road in Ridgeville.
Sanders had been sentenced Jan. 26 to time served for violating a protective order and was being prepared for release when he escaped through an employee exit in the back of the detention center. Correctional officers did not know he still faced a charge of criminal domestic violence, but would have realized it before Sanders was released, sheriff's Maj. Ricky Driggers has said.
Sanders remains at large.
In the wake of the escape, procedures for releasing prisoners have been changed. Inmates are now released at the front part of the jail, and the pre-release room is off-limits to them, Driggers has said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or on Twitter at @glennsmith5.