GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) -- The S.C. Sheriffs' Association terminated the membership of Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis at a special meeting held Monday.
"To be clear, this termination comes in response to conduct that we deem to be detrimental to the interests of this Association, and more importantly, detrimental to the Office of Sheriff in South Carolina," the organization said in a news release.
Lewis is facing a SLED investigation after his former assistant, Savanah Nabors, publicly accused him of sexual assault and harassment through a blog post and lawsuit.
Lewis said at a press conference that he had an extramarital encounter with his subordinate, but denied any criminal wrong doing.
Gov. Henry McMaster, Lieutenant Gov. Kevin Bryant, Greenville County Council members, along with many others have called for Lewis to step down, which he has refused.
The ability to terminate a membership was introduced in 2015, following a string of embarrassing events involving sheriffs, said Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the S.C. Sheriffs' Association. This is the first time a Sheriff's membership has been terminated since that bylaw was added in 2015.
A sheriff whose membership is terminated cannot attend events sponsored by the association, including critical training events and information sharing sessions. For example, Lewis was required to take a 45-hour course during his first year in office to be a sheriff. He completed that earlier this year.
According to state law, a Sheriff must complete 20 hours of training each year. The subject of those hours are to be set by the Sheriffs' Association, and usually Sheriffs attend training through them. Because of the termination of Lewis' membership, he will have to find another location to take the courses through. If he does not complete the annual 20 hours, the Sheriffs' Association can ask the Governor to suspend the Sheriff without pay.
Sheriff Lewis was given the opportunity to defend himself at today's meeting for a charge of "conduct detrimental to the Association," but did not, according to Bruder.
In a letter to Sheriff Lewis, the Association's Board of Directors said, "As constitutionally elected Sheriffs, we must recognize and accept that we are given special trust and confidence by the citizens and employees whom we have been elected to serve, represent, and manage. This trust and confidence is our bond to ensure that we shall behave and act according to the highest personal and professional standards. Any conduct by an elected Sheriff in South Carolina that does not maintain the highest personal and professional standards is ultimately detrimental to the South Carolina Sheriffs' Association and the Office of Sheriff in our State. Such conduct cannot be permitted."
Sheriff Lewis released the following statement in response to the decision:
As previously stated, I am continuing to focus my attention on the operations of the Sheriff's Office in order to ensure the protection of the citizens of Greenville County, and therefore will have no comment regarding the SC Sheriff's Association's decision."