State finds violations in two Gvl Sheriff’s Foundations

Two of the three foundations run by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office have been found to be failing to operate in compliance with how they’re registered with the state.

The Greenville Sheriff’s Foundation and the Greenville Sheriff’s Scholarship Foundation were both founded under Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown in the 1980’s.

The purpose of the Scholarship Foundation is to provide scholarships to deputies for continuing education, and for their children, according to public tax documents. Tax documents list the Sheriff’s Foundation’s purpose as “to provide guidance to juveniles”, while their articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State’s Office state the purpose is for various equipment and support for the Sheriff’s Office.

While both are listed as 501c3 non-profits, only the Scholarship Foundation was registered as a “charitable organization” with the Secretary of State’s Office.

The charitable organization status allows a non-profit to solicit funds. There’s also more public transparency, when a non-profit registers as a charity, as they are required to provide financial information to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Since 2008, the Scholarship Foundation has filed a charitable exemption with the Secretary of State’s Office, which means they won’t raise more than $7,500 in a fiscal year. That exemption also means that the charity isn’t required to turn in yearly financials to the Secretary of State’s Office. Sheriff Lewis renewed that exemption in May of 2017.

7News learned that a golf tournament was held at the Cliffs Valley Golf Course on October 3rd, 2017. At $2,500 a team, the Sheriff’s Office announced they raised more than $12,000 for the scholarship fund, which violates the exemption they filed. Per standard procedure, the Secretary of State’s Office will email the registered agent of the charity and tell them their exemption is no longer valid. Part of the exemption being removed means the charity has 15 days to produce financials for Fiscal Year 2016 and if they can Fiscal Year 2017.

The Sheriff’s Office has also received a violation letter for failing to register the Sheriff’s Foundation as a charity. The Secretary of State’s Office said that there is a gross revenue was too high to be operating with a charity status. A charity status gives the foundation the ability to solicit funds. The Sheriff’s Office will have the opportunity to argue this violation.

The change in the status for these two foundations means some of their financial information will be available to the public through the Secretary of State’s website.

The Sheriff’s Foundation is part of an audit by Greenville County Council.

We reached out to the Sheriff’s Office General Counsel for comment regarding their failure to be in compliance with how they registered. As of this article, we have not received a response.