Lawsuit filed against Sullivan’s Island police chief over inappropriate messages sent during vendor exposition


SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – A lawsuit has been filed against the Town of Sullivan’s Island and its Chief of Police, Chris Griffin, for an incident that occurred during a vendor exposition in November 2019.

Court documents show the plaintiffs, Emily Ward and Latane Gooding, were working at the South Carolina Police Chiefs Association Annual Leadership Conference in Myrtle Beach when Griffin approached them about something they were looking at online.

“After seeing what the plaintiffs were laughing at, Griffin asked Gooding to send the image to him via text message, asking Plaintiffs if they “liked that stuff” and indicating that he could send them more images,” documents stated.

It’s unclear what images the two were looking at when Griffin approached them.

Griffin allegedly asked the two for their phone numbers; Gooding instead put Griffin’s number into her phone and sent him the image in a group message with Ward. “Griffin immediately asked plaintiffs to identify themselves in the group message,” the lawsuit said.

Griffin then sent almost 20 unanswered and unprompted messages. “After Griffin sent his last message, he said “Like any of those lol,” according to the suit.

Documents show all the messages were sexually explicit, racist, demeaning, and inappropriate.

The messages were reported to the Executive Director of the Police Chiefs Association and the plaintiffs informed him how uncomfortable they felt by Griffin’s conduct.

“The next day, on November 20, 2019, the Executive Director of the Police Chiefs Association and the Mount Pleasant Police Chief, Carl Ritchie, drove to speak with Defendant Town’s Administrator, Andy Benke, and personally provided the same messages and reported Defendant Griffin’s conduct,” the lawsuit states.

Griffin’s membership was terminated on November 11, 2019.

The lawsuit claims the town did not open an investigation until the women filed formal complaints against Griffin, where they again provided the text messages and images to the town.

The town of Sullivan’s Island confirmed to News 2 in December 2019 that they were investigating “an incident recently reported involving the Chief of Police.”

Sullivan’s Island “subsequently “investigated” Plaintiffs’ complaints, but, upon information and belief, took no remedial or disciplinary action against Defendant Griffin whatsoever,” the lawsuit said.

Town Administrator Andy Benke tells News 2 Griffin is still employed by Sullivan’s Island as Chief of Police. When asked for comment about the lawsuit, he said the town does not comment on pending litigations.

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