FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence One Schools Superintendent Richard O’Malley has asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate the district’s food services department, according to SLED spokesman Thom Berry.
SLED is looking into allegations involving funds within the food services department, Berry said.
The investigation began May 16, Berry said, and he is unsure of how long it will take.
The Florence County Sheriff’s Office is assisting SLED with the investigation, Berry said.
Maj. Mike Nunn of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that he is unable to comment on any investigations that are active, so he is unable to confirm or deny the investigation.
O’Malley responded to the news with a statement that was sent by the district office.
"I can confirm the statement released today from South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and indicate that the Florence One School District is fully cooperating with law enforcement,” he said. “Furthermore, since this is a current, ongoing investigation I would refer all questions to the law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation."
Florence One Schools board Chairman Barry Townsend also sent a statement by email.
“I am not at liberty to discuss the ongoing investigation other than to confirm SLED’s statement that the investigation was requested by the superintendent,” he wrote. “I am referring all further inquiries to SLED.”
In a board meeting Monday, Florence One Schools approved the outsourcing of the food management services.
The district has been losing money each year for food services: $764,894 in 2016, $1,679,887 in 2017 and $298,425 in 2018, according to the 2016 and 2017 audits and the 2018 unaudited financial reports.
O’Malley said in a previous interview that the loss of money isn’t sustainable and is a problem for the district. He also said it is his job to present a plan to fix the problem.
Prior to the approval of the food service management contract, food service workers and community members voiced concerns during past board of trustees meetings about losing their jobs if the contract was approved. O’Malley has said the food service management company will retain all employees currently on the School Food Authority payroll, and they will keep their benefits and retain retirement plans.