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Former Internal Affairs investigator sues Horry County, claims wrongdoing was never investigated

(Source: WMBF News) (Source: WMBF News)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A man who worked as an Internal Affairs investigator for the Horry County Police Department, and claimed to have uncovered wrongdoing that the department never investigated, has filed a lawsuit against Horry County, claiming violations of the Whistle Blower act, violations of public policy, breach of contract, and other violations.

The lawsuit, filed by Matthew Darrah on Thursday, states that he was hired by HCPD as a Professional Standards Investigator in March 2013, after having worked as a policeman for the department for many years.

The suit claims that during the course of his employment, he uncovered a large number of cases that were not investigated by the HCPD, reported on numerous discrepancies, illegalities, and violations of law by members of the department, and found falsification of evidence records.

On November 23, 2015, Darrah made a formal complaint against then-Chief Saundra Rhodes for failing to investigate the wrongdoing he uncovered.

The next day, a Lieutenant informed Darrah that he was going to pick up his gun, badge and motor vehicle, the lawsuit claims. Until he was terminated in August of 2016, Darrah continued to make complaints to the Chief about his treatment, and his concerns about the cases he investigated that found wrongdoing by members of the police department.

During this time, several detectives with the HCPD were terminated and indicted after several instances of wrongdoing were uncovered, including Detective Allen Large, who is accused by multiple female victims that he sexually assaulted and coerced them while investigating their cases.

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At a date not specified in the lawsuit, Darrah was told he would be moved from his position as an Internal Affairs investigator to the Regulatory Division, where he would review business licenses and inspect tow trucks. The suit states this was a demotion for Darrah.

In April 2016, Darrah delivered information to the Human Resources Department about conversations Chief Rhodes had about undermining county councilmen. The next month, Human Resources advised that it had investigated the matter and it was addressed according to employment guidelines.

On a date not specified in the lawsuit, Darrah had been in a vehicle accident while on duty and needed significant medical treatment. Sometime before his termination in August 2016, Darrah was advised by the Human Resources Office that he could not return to work, and that the Family Medical Leave Act did not apply to him, as the county had a maximum 26-week absence policy.

The lawsuit goes on to claim several causes of action against the county. It claims that because Darrah presented evidence of wrongdoing and malfeasance, he was demoted and not allowed absence from work, and the county refused to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act.

Darrah claims that the department violated the state’s Whistle Blower Act and public policy by taking retaliatory action against him for reporting wrongdoing by HCPD officers and the Police Chief.

The lawsuit also claims the department violated state law by discharging him for participating in worker’s compensation proceedings. Darrah claims that the county’s decision to discharge him after 26 weeks violates the family Medical Leave Act and the state’s Workers’ Compensation law.

Finally, Darrah claims the police department breached his contract by terminating him.

Darrah is seeking actual damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, lost wages, other costs, and reinstatement to the department.

WMBF News has reached out to Horry County, the Horry County Police Department, Darrah’s attorney, and Darrah himself for comment on this lawsuit.

Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier stated in an email response: "It is County policy not to provide any commentary on matters relating to pending litigation."

Stay tuned to WMBF News this evening as we work to learn more.

Read a complete copy of the lawsuit filed by Darrah below:

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