High-ranking Beaufort County official resigns amid ethics commission investigation

Nearly one year after Eric Greenway was fired from Beaufort County, the string of resignations and assorted departures from the county continues to grow. The county’s Capital Improvements Projects Director is the latest. In a peculiar case of history repeating itself, this is the second time he has resigned during a tumultuous period of county government.

Eric Larson had a complicated tenure in Beaufort County. Larson was the county’s environmental engineering and land management director in 2019 when he resigned, suing the county and then administrator Ashley Jacobs. One of the claims Larson made was that he was being discriminated against for being an “older white male.”

Jacobs was later ousted as county administrator and suit was eventually settled, which would normally end someone’s relationship with their former employer. But nearly a year after the $40,000 settlement, Larson found himself working for Beaufort County again. This time in a $123,595-a-year position created by and reporting to then County Administrator Eric Greenway.

In April of 2023, Greenway told the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette that he considered Larson a friend. So much so that Greenway, who became administrator after Jacobs, had to excuse himself from settling the lawsuit, leaving it to his Deputy Administrator, Whitney Richland. Yet, Greenway was on the hiring panel for Larson’s return in September of 2022.

Now, for the second time, Larson is leaving his position in the county. This time he’s resigned in the wake of an ethics complaint filed with the South Carolina Ethics Commission. His last day with the county was June 3rd, county spokesperson Hannah Nichols confirmed. Nichols would not comment on why Larson resigned.

The complaint alleges that Larson had a subordinate perform measurements and draw plans for a sunroom addition to his home while on the clock, according to the individual who filed it. Then the plans were allegedly submitted to the county for construction.

There are now nine ethics complaints filed against Beaufort County employees or former employees. Included with the complaint against Larson are:

  • Three against the former parks and recreation director Shannon Loper

  • Two against former administrator Eric Greenway

  • One against the former deputy administrator Whitney Richland

  • One against the special assistant to the county administrator Hank Amundson

  • One against the assistant county administrator for infrastructure, Jared Fralix

The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette have submitted a SC Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the alleged work on Larson’s home.

The post-Greenway era

Larson is the latest in a string of high profile position that were vacated following the aftermath of Eric Greenway’s exit from Beaufort County.

A series of other questionable actions came to light in the wake of the Greenway firing including a mysterious purchase of nearly $36,000 worth of weighted blankets, reportedly from a company owned by then Deputy Administrator Whitney Richland’s husband. It was later discovered that the county was in possession of the blankets, which were all still boxed and on the floor in a county warehouse. Officials had previously denied that the county ever took possession of the order.

Richland resigned on an unknown date following the press coverage of the blankets.

Unrelated to the blankets, county leaders eventually learned that $800,000 in playground equipment had been purchased and installed in Port Royal before getting the required council approval. The council retroactively approved the playground despite the substantial expense with a vote of 8-2.

Loper was fired from the county but eventually hired on an interim basis by the Town of Rincon, GA.

Most recently, Richland’s interim replacement, Denise Christmas, resigned leaving the county council with sharp advice on how to put Beaufort County back on the right track.