SLED charges SC city councilman, former mayor pro tem with sexual conduct with a minor

The former Pickens mayor pro tem was charged Friday with sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree, according to a statement released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Donald “Donnie” Edward McKinney, a Pickens city councilman and mayor pro tem, committed “sexual battery” around May 20 on a victim between 14 and 16 years old, according to the statement. The Upstate politician allegedly groped and performed oral sex on the victim.

According to the warrant, McKinney, 75, was “older and in a familial, custodial, and/or authority position to coerce the victim.”

McKinney has served on the Pickens City Council since 2014, according to the city’s website. Prior to the city council’s reorganization, McKinney was the chair of Senior Citizens Committee and mayor pro tem, giving him the authority to act as mayor in case of the elected mayor’s absence.

When asked if McKinney would remain on Pickens City Council, Pickens City Administrator Charlene Carter said that they were not ready to make a decision. She emphasized that the city would have to seek legal guidance before removing a sitting councilman who had not been convicted of a crime.

”We do have a presumption of innocence,” Carter said. “He’s saying he’s not guilty of the charge,”

In South Carolina, the governor has the power to suspend an elected politician who has been indicted for a crime of moral turpitude.

Brian Symmes, Gov. Henry McMaster’s communication director, emphasized that McKinney had not yet been indicted by a grand jury, but McMaster would suspend McKinney if one was issued.

In 2017, McMaster suspended then Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah after he was indicted on a charge of second-degree criminal domestic violence. Trent Kinard, a Bamburg County councilman, was suspended by McMaster after being indicted in 2020 on child sex crimes and first degree assault charges.

Baddourah eventually entered pre-trial intervention in his case, and charges were dropped when he completed that intervention, The State previously reported. The charges against Kinard are pending.

SLED charged McKinney based in part on a forensic interview and at least one statement.

McKinney posted a $20,000 personal recognizance bond Friday. A condition of his release is that he has no contact with the victim, according to court records. He is scheduled for his first court appearance on Dec. 8.

The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office requested that SLED investigate the case. The case will be prosecuted by the 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.