Charleston sheriff responds to email exchange between asst. sheriff, sheriff-elect

VIDEO: Charleston sheriff responds to email exchange between asst. sheriff, sheriff-elect

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County’s sheriff responded late Friday to the backlash from an email his assistant sheriff sent to the sheriff-elect.

The online fracas began when Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas criticized Sheriff-Elect Kristin Graziano and shared his thoughts and concerns on her rumored transition plans in an email he mistakenly sent to the entire sheriff’s office Thursday.

Lucas’s eight-paragraph message to Graziano, who defeated Cannon in the general election, detailed his concerns about her “rumored” plans for change.

“First, I am copying Sheriff Cannon because I have not told him I was sending this email to you. I am sending it to the Sergeants and above because they need to be able to tell their troops something,” Lucas wrote. “I am sending this to you because I remember that you stated at the beginning of your campaign that there should be more transparency within the Sheriff’s Office. Well, the current situation that you have created is anything but transparent.”

“I’m not sure I understand how someone would take that as an insult or anyway derogatory. It’s a fact,” Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said. “Pointing that out as a reasonable explanation for why she may not be doing something I think is understandable.”

It seems Lucas copied more people on the message than he originally planned when he CC’d the entire email user list for the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. He seemed to realize his mistake after he received emails from several Master Deputies who questioned the critical nature of Lucas’s message.

In a response obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request, Lucas replied, “My apologies. I intended to send the original email to sergeants and above.”

Some deputies are now calling for Lucas’s termination.

“As a 20+ member of this agency, all I can say is you just penned what some of us have always suspected of you,” Master Deputy Jeremy Kraus replied. “I can’t speak for the whole, but would fathom most have a huge respect for Sheriff Cannon. Master Deputy Kristin Graziano has a great working plan for the direction of this agency with respect to the past and where it has come from. But your obvious condescending opinion of lowly Master Deputies says it all…I respectfully request Sheriff Cannon to dismiss you.”

Cannon says he supports the concerns shared in Lucas’s email and instead believes those who replied to the message supporting Graziano are being insubordinate.

“They would have never responded to that if you had some similar situation, but I don’t know if that was to play up to the incoming sheriff or what,” Cannon said. “I’m not interested in pursuing that at this time, but that’s some of the expected dynamics of what you would find in this kind of scenario.”

Graziano released the following statement:

I was not shocked or surprised to see Mitch Lucas send out that email, and it seemed like he did not intend on it going out to the entire sheriff’s office. I believe his email speaks for himself and his legacy at the sheriff’s office. But I do not allow myself or our dedicated professionals to be bullied.

Change doesn’t come easily for some, and this sheriff’s office has never seen a change in leadership until now. The allegations Lucas made in his email are baseless and are not rooted in reality. In the past two weeks since the election, I have been in communication with the rank and file of the sheriff’s office and jail staff. I reached out first via email, and I am continuing to meet with them in small groups to talk with them about their experiences and how they see growing up in the ranks of the department. We’ve got good people here, and I want them to find success.

I have named three people on my transition team who are currently employed at the sheriff’s office. I know and respect them for their work and their integrity. The rank and file know to seek them out for any questions about the transition. I have also just begun to form a community advisory committee to oversee the transition. I believe it’s important to have their input and for me to be held accountable, because I intend to be a servant to all residents of Charleston County. They deserve a seat at the table.

In the meantime, I’ve been meeting with Sheriff Cannon, county administrators, touring the detention center, meeting and communicating with other county sheriffs, and lawyers who are setting me up for success come January when I am sworn in.

I am attempting to throw as much sunshine as possible on the sheriff’s office. We need to throw back the curtains, look under the hood, and see what’s truly been going on. That might make some people uncomfortable. Some may not want to have that kind of accountability or change in direction. That’s OK. But those who want to stay and be a part of something different, they are more than welcome at a sheriff’s office run by myself.

Lucas was particularly critical of Graziano’s experience and how that may impact her ability to lead the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.

“When people ask me about these rumors and gossip, I always respond the same: ‘She is just a Master Deputy Sheriff. She has no idea how to be a sheriff yet.’ Having said that, the members of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office deserves to have a sheriff who at least tries to be a good sheriff. The jury will be out for a while on whether you ever actually become a good sheriff,” Lucas’s email states. “I have to admit that none of your plans have anything to do with me. None of this has anything to do with me personally. I am the Assistant Sheriff to Sheriff Al Cannon, and when he leaves office so do I. I had intended to retire in December 2021, so your election just moved my schedule up. I do however care about the members of this agency and will even after I am gone.”

Graziano replied to Lucas’s message directly.

“In full transparency, I am responding to the entire agency as you have done, but this is good. At least we are communicating honestly now,” her emailed reply stated. “I am the Sheriff-Elect Graziano, not Master Deputy. I would appreciate you referring to me as such if you feel the need to address me at all, which is not necessary going forward. If you genuinely cared about the people in this organization, Sheriff Al Cannon would not be in this quandary, that is the reality you fail to acknowledge. If we are going to be totally transparent here Mitch, your inability to comprehend the damage YOU have caused is nothing short of self-centered and irresponsible. It would be in every member of this agency’s best interest if you exercised your determination to retire sooner than later. Why wait? Your condescending and truthless tirade of invoking fear in members of the agency is not only baseless but lacks any substance, just like the messenger. The fact that you just insulted most of the agency with your demeaning and condescending comments, particularly directed at some of the most dedicated public servants I know, speaks volumes. You are so out of touch with folks, that you believe your own rhetoric. My communication with staff does not concern you nor will it involve you.”

Lucas declined to comment on his email or the response, referring media inquiries to Cannon.

Cannon also sent an email of his own to CCSO employees Friday evening.

“All of you recently received an email sent by Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas. As he stated in the email, I wasn’t aware of his intention to send such an email, and I apologize to those who took exception to or were offended by the email. This is a challenging period for everyone, and the email did not help matters any. As I stated shortly after the election, I want and expect everyone to help in this transition as much as possible,” Cannon’s email stated. “I wish the new Sheriff to be successful in her endeavors as she takes the lead in this great organization. I know that there are many concerns out there as that is to be expected. However, as I have also told you, all of you need to give her the benefit of the doubt, and hang in there. You may find that there is a lot to like about her plans. In any event, I know the Assistant Sheriff was intending to allay some concerns, but his approach was improper.”

VIDEO: Charleston Co. sheriff weighs in on online fracas between assistant sheriff, sheriff-elect
VIDEO: Charleston sheriff responds to exchange between assistant sheriff, sheriff-elect

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