SLED spokesperson Kathryn Richardson confirmed in September that SLED was investigating but would not confirm what or who was being investigated.
The referendum was defeated by a 77 percent to 23 percent margin on Sept. 5.
The District 55 school board released a statement on Friday regarding the investigation. “The Laurens County School District 55 administration and Board of Trustees have been contacted by SLED regarding the September referendum. The Board and District are cooperating completely. To our knowledge, there was no wrongdoing and we continue to work diligently to prepare our 6,000 students for success in school and in work.”
Accusations of coercion have been stated in regards to local businesses potentially losing district business if they voted against the referendum. Other issues involving the referendum include the Vote Yes campaign offering fish sandwiches on the day of the referendum, the Vote No campaign not being allowed to use Hickory Tavern School for a rally and funding for the Vote Yes campaign.
Campaign finance reports show that Firstfloor Energy Positive, the selected builder for the new Laurens District High School, contributed $62,000 to the Vote Yes campaign.
SC Rep. Mike Pitts also lobbied for District 55 staff to come forward with any information regarding intimidation by district administration during the campaign.
Steven Hamm, interim executive director of the SC Ethics Commission, could neither confirm or deny the existence of any Ethics Commission investigation.
“If a complaint has been filed and there has been a preliminary staff investigation, the results of the investigation only become public after at least 6 members of the 8 members of the South Carolina Ethics Commission rule that there is sufficient probable cause to charge an individual with a violation and hold a public enforcement hearing. I have nothing to report regarding a September 2017 referendum in Laurens.”