Beaufort News

SLED asked to investigate 'possible financial irregularities' at ACE

The S.C. Law Enforcement Division is reviewing a request to investigate "possible financial irregularities" at the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said the request was made by the Jasper County Sheriff's Office. SLED officials have not decided whether they will investigate, said Timmons, who declined to provide additional information.

An attempt Thursday afternoon to reach Jasper County Sheriff Gregory Jenkins for comment was unsuccessful.

Earl Campbell, ACE board chairman, and Chris Dinkins, director of the career center, both said they had not been notified of the request for a SLED investigation.

Campbell said he is awaiting results of an internal inquiry expected to end by April 29.

The academy's board voted unanimously this month to look into "financial and personnel matters" at the school. The superintendents of the school districts in Beaufort and Jasper counties will conduct the inquiry.

The academy is jointly owned by the two counties' school districts and serves students from both counties.

Dinkins said he has been working with representatives of the school districts as they conduct their inquiry.

"We're wide open, and they are welcome to come in and look at whatever they need to look at," he said.

Dinkins said he doesn't believe an inquiry will turn up evidence of criminal misconduct.

"I think the inquiry will prove this was much ado about nothing," he said.

The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet received a copy of an anonymous letter dated March 28 that has been circulated among school board members outlining concerns about ACE's management. The claims involve a wide range of issues, such as missed deadlines for posting employees' contributions to their state retirement accounts after the money was withheld from paychecks.

S.C. Budget and Control Board spokeswoman Lindsey Kremlick confirmed the school missed multiple deadlines last year for submitting the money and reports necessary for the state retirement system to post contributions to employees' accounts.

She said the school is now current with all remittances and reports.