Lawsuits allege racial discrimination, retaliation at Sheriff’s Office

Published 8:14 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Two former deputies are suing the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Ernie Coleman and three high-ranking BCSO officials for claims of racial discrimination and retaliation.

The two lawsuits were filed this past week in U.S. District Court in Greenville, both in reference to a series of incidents that allegedly took place at the BCSO from November, 2016 through February, 2017.

A lawsuit from one former deputy, Dominic Franks, alleges that “while employed with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Plaintiff was subjected to a pervasive, hostile, abusive, racist and unsafe work conditions.”

Another suit filed by former BCSO Cpl. Michael Roy Sheppard, alleges he was “retaliated against and terminated for reporting that a co-worker was being called racist names.”

In both lawsuits, four BCSO employees are named — Sheriff Ernie Coleman, Chief Deputy Charlie Rose, Lt. Kelly Cox and Sgt. William Ragland. Coleman denied the claims against him, his office and his deputies.

“The allegations described from the lawsuit are not true and we are confident that this will be proven in court,” Coleman said in an email statement. “Our answer to the lawsuit, which will be filed with the court soon, will speak for itself. Beyond that, we have no further comment while this is in litigation.”

Coleman in a phone interview Wednesday, went on to say that he believes the allegations are politically motivated. In 2018, Petre Earl Franks, Sr. ran for Beaufort County Sheriff on the Democratic ticket. Coleman said that during the course of the campaign, similar allegations were spread throughout the community.

“I’m frustrated with this whole thing,” Coleman said. “It’s a bunch of lies and it’s just political. I shouldn’t be saying this, but it will all come to light anyway. I have no doubt, emphasis on no doubt, that this is going to be dismissed in federal court in the first round, because there is nothing but lies.”

Both Franks and Sheppard are seeking damages against the BCSO and the men named in the suit. The Clemons Law Firm, of Greenville, is representing both men.