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      Indicted Columbia parks planning director has long criminal record

      Columbia director of park planning Damon McDuffie was indicted Thursday on charges of accepting kickbacks for work on city projects including refurbishing this bridge at Riverfront Park.

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- City of Columbia parks planning director Damon McDuffie, who was indicted Thursday on federal charges for allegedly taking kickbacks from city contractors, is a convicted felon with a long history of convictions on a variety of charges including fraudulent checks and distributing marijuana near a school.

      According to Richland County Court records, McDuffie was given a 5-year suspended sentence in 2002 on a bad check charge. He received a 1-year jail sentence in 2000 for distribution of marijuana near a school. McDuffie also was given a 30-day jail sentence on a larceny charge in 2000 and a 1-year suspended sentence on a forgery charge in 1996.

      McDuffie was suspended from his city job without pay Thursday upon his indictment, said his boss, Assistant City Manager Allison Baker.

      Columbia's Free Times newspaper reported Thursday afternoon McDuffie was hired by the city between 6 and 7 years ago as part of a work incentive program described by city officials as a "second chance program."

      The current federal inctment against McDuffie accuses him of accepting kickbacks between October 2006 and January 2010 in exchange for granting work on behalf of the city's parks and recreation division.

      Count one of the indictment accuses McDuffie of "soliciting and receiving illegal payments from a contractor seeking business with the City of Columbia," but it does not give specific details. The second count accuses him of taking an illegal payment from a contractor seeking a contract for the refurbishment of the footbridge at Riverfront Park.

      WACH Fox News spoke with former city municipal judge Mildred McDuffie Friday evening. Judge McDuffie confirmed she and Damon McDuffie are related. The judge said he is a distant relative; her husband's first cousin's grandson. McDuffie's statement clarified a previous description of their relationship provided to WACH Fox News by a former city employee that said she is his aunt.

      McDuffie could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the two counts he faces. The prosecution is also seeking the forfeiture of $15,000 from McDuffie.

      Read the federal indictment against Damon McDuffie

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