Berkeley County School District

Berkeley County School District has filed a lawsuit against the accounting and auditing firm it cut ties with in 2017.

According to the suit, filed Nov. 28 in Berkeley County, the school district alleges that the Greenville-based auditing firm Greene, Finney & Horton LLP — now Greene Finney LLP — failed to provide “transparent, objective, independent and truthful” auditing services for the district.

The firm served the district from 1999 until 2017, when the board voted unanimously to fire the firm in the wake of terminating longtime CFO Brantley Thomas, who faces charges for embezzling more than $1 million from the district.

“Their actions and omissions cost the children and taxpayers of Berkeley County millions of dollars,” the lawsuit reads.

The firm was fired a month after giving the district a clean financial report in January 2017.

The suit names the auditing firm and Larry Finney, as well as Thomas, as the defendants and states the district paid more than $1.5 million to the defendants during the time it served the district.

The district is demanding a jury trial.

The suit states during all audit years, the firm had access to the district’s accounts, books, records and supporting documents. Thomas also referred other school districts in the state to the firm for accounting services, the suit reads.

The suit also states that the firm “enjoyed a close personal relationship with Thomas that included expensive meals, gifts and other acts not appropriate between an auditor and a governmental client.”

Among the allegations, the suit states the defendants knew Thomas was in breach of his fiduciary duties to the district, and participated in his breach of duty by hiding Thomas’s illegal activities in exchange for his assistance in steering the district’s account business to the audit defendants.

Thomas served as chief financial officer for the district from 1993 until his termination in February 2017, when the district met with Wells Fargo Bank and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was informed of an investigation into criminal misconduct by Thomas.

Thomas plead guilty to money laundering, embezzlement and public corruption in January 2018.

Earlier this month, a Grand Jury charged Thomas with six additional charges related to public corruption. The recent charges are in addition to 29 prior State Grand Jury charges from October 2017, November 2017 and June 2018. The previous charges include embezzlement, forgery and misconduct in office.

A sentencing date for Thomas has not yet been set. If found guilty on all state charges, Thomas faces 305 years in prison.