Prosecutor: Supervisor used county vehicle to deliver meth

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A county supervisor in South Carolina used his government vehicle to deliver meth to buyers because it was less likely to get pulled over, prosecutors said.

Chester County Supervisor Kenneth Shane Stuart was part of a drug ring that was distributing at least a pound of methamphetamines and also was helping people steal the catalytic converters off 22 county cars to sell as scrap metal, state Assistant Attorney General Creighton Waters said at a Friday bond hearing.

“This is really, I think, a slap in the face to the public trust he is supposed to be honoring,” Waters said.

Stuart was indicted this week on charges of distributing and trafficking in methamphetamines, criminal conspiracy and misconduct in office.

Investigators may have only scratched the surface of the ring. Waters said state agents did a whirlwind investigation of just a few weeks after Chester County deputies got a tip.

Agents allegedly watched Stuart in his county vehicle sell meth twice. “His use of the county vehicle was safe because he was not going to be pulled over,” Waters said.

Stuart did not have an attorney, and the judge delayed deciding on bond until he had one after Waters said sometime people like Stuart with no criminal record and a good reputation — he is a veteran and a former law enforcement officer — can be especially dangerous after they are arrested,

“Sometimes they pose the greatest risk to themselves and others because of the stunning fall from grace,” Waters said.

The prosecutor agreed to revisit bond for Stuart once he had a lawyer.

Two others were arrested along with Stuart, including Ace Donovon Hembree, who Stuart hired to supervise animal control for the county. Hembree lost that job after crashing into a vehicle in a county parking lot.

Stuart, 47, was elected county supervisor in 2015 beating a longtime incumbent after the original election was tossed out. He was re-elected to the $85,000 a year job in 2018.

Stuart isn’t the only Chester County public figure under indictment. Suspended Sheriff Alex Underwood is facing federal charges that he violated a man’s civil rights by creating a false police report and pocketed money meant to pay overtime for his deputies among other allegations.

The cases don’t appear connected. But Chester County Council did ask for an ethics investigation into Stuart last year after learning he alone approved a $20,000 raise for Underwood after the November 2016 election.

The supervisor in Chester County is an elected position to oversee the county of about 32,000 people. The position also leads the County Council.

The Chester County Council held an emergency meeting Thursday. They didn’t share much about the case, but told a packed meeting room they should still trust their government.

“Our message today is to the people who reside in Chester County to continue to believe in our county and support this governing body,” Council Vice Chairman Joe Branham said.

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