Columbia Free Times
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Benjamin Responds to Pinson Verdict, Stripper-Trip Testimony

By Dan Cook
Thursday, July 3, 2014 |
Following the conviction of former S.C. State board chair Jonathan Pinson on 29 counts of public corruption, Mayor Steve Benjamin released a statement on the verdict and on the allegations about him that surfaced during the trial of his former business partner.

"We have the Pinson family in our thoughts and prayers," Benjamin says in the statement. "As you are aware, I have withheld all comment while this difficult matter was before the court."

Benjamin's name came up frequently during the trial, with prosecutors saying he was involved in "questionable moneymaking schemes" and had worked alongside Pinson to "line their own pockets," The State reported. The two were partners in the Village at Rivers Edge housing development, a public-private partnership that started in the mid-2000s. The private portion of the development went into foreclosure in 2012; some of the charges against Pinson were related to theft of federal funds intended for that project.

Benjamin, however, has not been charged with any crimes. He had said previously and reiterated in his statement that he sold his share of the Village at Rivers Edge before he became mayor.

"My ownership interest in the Village at Rivers Edge terminated in August of 2009 and, after that date, I no longer maintained any role in the management of the project," Benjamin's statement reads. "Furthermore, after my election as Mayor in April of 2010, I conflicted myself out of all decisions directly or indirectly related to the project."

On the most titillating Benjamin-related revelation that came out of the trial — testimony that the mayor partied with strippers at an Orlando hotel during a trip paid for by a developer — Benjamin's statement is circumspect.

"I regret being present for certain aspects of the ... trip," he says. "I should have used better judgment."

On the question of whether the trip should have been reported to the State Ethics Commission, Mayor Benjamin says, "We have met with the Ethics Commission and are confident that after a thorough review of all of the facts, they will determine that it was a personal business trip and as such, not a matter to be reported."

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