Officers from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division have arrested James Arren Preacher Jr., mayor of the small town of Norway (pop. 327 by the 2010 census). He faces charges of misconduct in office and impersonating a law enforcement officer.
On Jan. 18, a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper pulled Preacher over in Orangeburg County for driving 70 mph in a 55 mph zone. Norway Town Council had disbanded the Norway Police Department in 2011, and Preacher claimed he was acting as the town constable in chasing a car he believed was involved in a gas station robbery, according to the Times and Democrat.
"The town doesn't have any money and hasn't paid an electric bill since November," Preacher told the T&D at the time. "Sometimes you've just got to do what you've got to do to survive."
Moments after being ticketed, Preacher turned on blue lights and a siren in his Dodge Charger and pulled the highway patrolman over. The trooper complied and handed Preacher his license and registration, which Preacher returned before driving off.
The whole sequence of events led SLED to conduct an investigation that finally resulted in Preacher's arrest today. According to an affidavit from SLED, Preacher had asked the Norway town clerk to start paying him the same salary as the town's previous police officer, in addition to his salary as mayor, without approval from Town Council. He had also hired his son, James Arren Preacher III, to a position at the town's water treatment department, which he claimed to be overseeing. In addition to the misconduct-in-office charge, SLED found that he had no authority to pull over a state trooper.
"All this was done in violation of his duties of good faith, honesty, and accountability in his capacity as a public official, the Mayor of Norway," both affidavits read.
Preacher was booked this afternoon at the Orangeburg County Detention Center, and his case will be prosecuted by the Ninth Circuit Solicitor's Office.