Market Owner and High School Coach Faces Allegations of Inappropriate Behavior

The exterior of Carolina Meat & Fish Co. in the Ballantyne neighborhood.

Jim Seidel is an established member of his community, both as a business owner and youth volleyball coach.

He has coached girl’s volleyball at a number of area high schools in recent years, most recently at Fort Mill High School and before that at Indian Land High School, Mountain Island Charter School, Gaston Day School, and Charlotte Latin School.

Seidel is also an award-winning coach at the Carolina Union Volleyball Club where he is currently the head coach for the traveling 17 Blue team. He also owns Carolina Meat & Fish Co., a popular seafood market that opened in Ballantyne in 2015.

Over the years, employees and colleagues have made allegations of inappropriate conduct against Jim Seidel to potential employers and the community.

Allegations include sexual harassment of underage employees, sexual assault of an underage employee, and sending sexually suggestive messages to underage employees, all of which involved employees at Carolina Meat Fish & Co (CMFC).

Other reported allegations include sexually deviant behavior as the varsity volleyball coach at Indian Land High School, purposefully walking in on at least one employee at CMFC as they used the restroom, sending underage employees images of their bodies taken from security footage, and inappropriately engaging with a student at Indian Land High School from the Carolina Meat & Fish Co.’s Instagram account.

He resigned from his position at the school shortly after reportedly being confronted about the latter incident.

Allegations made against Jim Seidel

An employee named Clara* spoke to Queen City Nerve about her experience at the seafood market, alleging that Seidel touched her inappropriately when she was employed at CMFC at 17 years old.

Clara met Seidel through his teenage daughter, whom she’s friends with. She said she noticed red flags early in her employment at the market, such as one occurrence when Seidel allegedly commented on the appearance of one of her friends on social media, also 17 years old, saying, “Oh yeah she can work here, she’s hot.”

Another former employee Queen City Nerve spoke to named Stephanie* said she had also met Seidel through her friendship with his daughter. She didn’t see anything wrong with him sending friend requests on social media, but became wary after he began sending Snapchats to her and her co-workers.

Queen City Nerve viewed text messages in which Seidel solicited “bestie beach pics” from Stephanie after she notified him she would be going on vacation, and when she told him it was too cold he responded, “Even better.”

In another text message viewed by Queen City Nerve, when telling one employee to return to work for unfinished duties, Seidel stated that another employee still at the market was upset that the work was not done.

The employee that left responded, “Tell her to suck it up it was busy.” Seidel responded, “Yes pls.” The employee responded with “Huh,” to which Seidel followed up with, “Nevermind.”

Seidel responded to these claims stating, “I don’t send those types of messages, period. If anyone perceives any message that I send as such, they have a warped and misguided mind and should seek counseling immediately.”

Stephanie claimed Seidel liked to be referred to as a higher superiority, like a king. “One time he texted [Clara] and said, ‘As your Lord and King do I get to command you to do things and you obey?”

Stephanie also alleged that he sent her a picture of a woman choking herself, though Queen City Nerve did not view either of those texts.

In response to this allegation, Seidel gave examples of slang terms like “King” and “Queen” that he said “kids use these days,” and referred to them as endearing.

“If I ever sent a text or said that to someone, and after 3 years I do not recall that, it would have been to tell someone to do the required things in the store like mop the floor, or clean the cases, or clean out a refrigerator,” he wrote in an email. “I run a business and these are the things people do not do unless told repeatedly and it gets tiring.”

Multiple sources at Carolina Meat & Fish Co. told Queen City Nerve about an incident in which Seidel’s wife came to the market to address rumors that he had been acting inappropriately with underage employees. After his wife left, he allegedly became frustrated and started asking employees what they had told his wife.

Seidel responded to these allegations in an email stating, “My wife of 24 years has never come to the market to confront me about anything besides bringing home something for dinner.”

Seidel is also accused of, on at least one occasion, walking in on an employee while they were using the bathroom during a time when he and others working there knew the lock on the door was broken. He acknowledged that he accidentally walked in on an employee once during an especially hectic holiday season at the market, but insisted it was a mistake.

“Our space is small and at this time people are running into each other, going in all directions in a hurry. In a brief moment, an innocent mistake was made for 2 seconds and I told the employees immediately after it happened,” he wrote. “Anyone who thinks that seeing someone in a bathroom is anything other than embarrassing and a simple mistake has a warped sense of reality and should seek counseling.”

On Mother’s Day 2020, Seidel allegedly touched Clara inappropriately while the two took out the trash after hours, an incident that eventually convinced her to quit her job at the market. Clara said she was already on edge about a recent schedule change that made it so she and Seidel would be working together alone, which made her uncomfortable due to his past behavior.

“I was very scared to actually go in that day because I was the only one working. This is weird, this is off,” she said, recollecting her thought process at the time.

Clara was there alone with Seidel and a co-worker, and after that co-worker left, Seidel and Clara locked the market and walked some trash bags to a dumpster together.

“And I’m walking a little ahead because I didn’t want to be near him like that,” she recalled. “I don’t know what gets brought up, but he’s like, ‘I’m thinking of grabbing that ass,’ and then he slaps — he gropes me. I proceeded to go to my car and then I called my coworker, my friend, and I just cried a little because I was like, ‘This is weird.’”

Seidel said the market closed at noon that day because it was a holiday, and sent pictures showing he was elsewhere early in the morning and later in the day.

Clara confirmed that the market closed early, and Queen City Nerve confirmed with another employee that Clara and Seidel were the last people left at the business after closing.

Some weeks after that alleged incident, Clara quit her job at CMFC and informed Seidel it was due in large part to his past incidents of sexual harassment, including the incident that allegedly occurred on Mothers’ Day.

“I left in a really discreet way when I quit and I told him. I sent him a very long paragraph and was like, ‘You make me feel uncomfortable. You did that, that’s not right, I’m quitting.’ He was like, ‘I don’t understand where this is coming from,’ and then he just paid me and I left.

In the text message, which Queen City Nerve has viewed, Clara states, “Just letting you know today was my last day working at the market, if you could pay me as soon as possible that’d be greatly appreciated.”

Seidel responded, “Huh? … Why is that?”

“Working at the market is no longer the same for me,” she texted. “I feel uncomfortable and I do feel sexually harassed along with some of the other girls… I’m not the only one. When you made comments about wanting to grope me and intentionally slapped my ass that was the final straw.”

“There was no problem in his eyes,” Clara told Queen City Nerve. “That’s the thing about him. I realize now … in a way he just wanted to be our age and befriend us. It was some weird grooming thing like I guess he’s just not happy with being old. He wanted to act our age, it was a very weird persona he put on.”

In an email to Queen City Nerve, Seidel cast doubt on Clara’s allegations, stating that the fact she waited weeks after Mother’s Day to quit her job there.

“So why stay and work if I was this awful person? Why not have a parent confront me, why not call the police?” he asked.

In an earlier conversation with Queen City Nerve, Clara addressed those concerns.

“I was very embarrassed,” Carla said. “It was a very hard decision and I kept it from my parents for a little while.”
Once she informed her parents, she filed a police report, she said, but it didn’t lead anywhere.

Queen City Nerve has tried to uncover this police report to no avail. A public records request to CMPD showed two incident reports filed with the department at the address of the Carolina Meat & Fish Co.

One report is from an incident in which someone threw a brick through a window, the other report is sealed and not available to the public.

Seidel stated in an email that he is not aware of the circumstances surrounding the sealed police report.

Clara told Queen City Nerve that, after consulting with a private investigator, she decided that she wouldn’t further pursue anything criminally, but would quit her job.

“[The private investigator] gave us our options and the options seemed very dull leading to nowhere, no justice,” she said. “I was like, it’s not really worth it to go into something like legal action because at that point some time had passed and I was thinking, maybe it was my fault, like nothing else happened, he can’t really get into that much trouble just for doing that.”

In response to allegations that Seidel had sent underage employees photos of their bodies from security footage, including when they were bending over, he sent Queen City Nerve a screenshot of the view from the security camera.

In the email, he stated, “The distance between the shelf that the camera is on and the register counter is 36 inches and just enough to stand straight up in between and check out a customer at the register. There is no reason for anyone to bend over for anything. Everything an employee would need to check a customer out is within arm’s reach standing up straight, (see attached pictures). Security cameras are unfortunately a way of life today and a way of protecting people, places and things.”

Security footage inside Carolina Meat & Fish Co.
A still image of the view from the security camera inside of Carolina Meat & Fish Co. (Photo courtesy of Jim Seidel)

The view from the camera does not disprove the claims, as the entire interior of the market can be viewed where an employee could be doing any sort of work beyond the counter where the cash register is.

Predatory behavior against minors

According to Child Lures Prevention, most children that fall victim to sexual crimes are lured and groomed into situations in which they become more vulnerable to abuse. Some of the most common practices of this behavior include predators taking jobs and participating in community events that involve children, attending sports events for children, offering to coach for children’s sports, volunteering in youth organizations, and befriending children on social media and online gaming platforms.

Other tactics include the use of authority, companionship, threats, employment and affection.  A full list is available in this Newson6 listing.

Detective Jessica Hall with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit confirmed that only a couple of years in age dictate whether the aforementioned actions would constitute a felony or misdemeanor charge. Hall did not discuss specifics of the allegations against Jim Seidel.

The age of sexual consent in the state of North Carolina is 16, so anyone age 15 years old or younger is considered a child when it comes to crimes of a sexual nature; 16 years or older changes the legal view of the crime because of necessary probable cause to pursue charges.

Therefore, inappropriate touching like what Seidel has been accused of by his then 17-year-old employee would constitute a misdemeanor sexual battery charge as opposed to the felony indecent liberties charge it would constitute if perpetrated against someone 15 years old or younger.

“It’s people the victims trust, whether it’s a family member, a faith-based person or authority, like a coach — somebody where the child trusts and knows them,” Hall said. “To the child it may not seem like a scary predator, but in the sense of calculated, methodical behavior of these suspects who prey on children and exploit their vulnerabilities, we do see [predatory behavior] quite often.

“Anybody who’s in a role like — let’s use an example of coaching — it’s an adult male on a female team, that’s okay, that’s normal behavior,” she continued. “But, once the coach takes personal interest in your child [like] wanting to do one-on-one coaching, creating situations for them and your child to be alone, if they start having a relationship over the phone, like a friendship, that crosses a line because you have a role and you’ve blurred that boundary. That goes for anyone in a supervisory role.”

Hall warned that anyone who uses that supervisory role to create a personal relationship with a child over social media, text messages or other platforms that could lead to in-person meet-ups may be creating situations where they can explain away inappropriate behavior.

“It’s just a slow progression,” she said.

A lack of repercussions

During Seidel’s tenure at Mountain Island Charter School (MICS) from 2020-21, an unnamed person reportedly sent screenshots of inappropriate text conversations Seidel had with minors to the athletic director and assistant principal at the school.

Queen City Nerve viewed those text messages, which showed him communicating with young market employees in an inappropriate way, though not with students.

MICS Executive Director Glenn Byrum said in an email to Queen City Nerve, “As an employee in good standing, Mr. Seidel passed all background checks upon hire and ongoing employment screenings. The school was informed that civil litigation dealing with this situation occurred and was resolved (Mecklenburg county, case 18-CVS-13931).”

Seidel confirmed in an email that the school had received these anonymous allegations.

The court case referenced by Byrum is a civil litigation suit wherein Seidel sued former colleague Myrtilla Kerna for “intentional infliction of emotional distress, torturous interference with prospective economic advantage, and defamation.”

The lawsuit was in response to allegations made against him in multiple anonymous letters sent to Indian Land High School during his employment in July 2017.

Additionally, Byrum outlined the school’s background check policy: “To ensure that individuals who join MICS are well qualified and to ensure that MICS maintains a safe working environment, it is our policy to conduct pre-employment background checks on all applicants who accept an offer of employment. Background checks may include verification of any information on the applicant’s resume or application form.”

Seidel has not faced criminal charges connected to any of the past allegations made against him.

A source told Queen City Nerve that Charlotte Latin School’s athletic director had also been informed of alleged inappropriate conduct by Seidel while he was working there in 2016.

In an email to Queen City Nerve, Charlotte Latin School spokesperson Susan Carpenter said, “Mr. Seidel was a volleyball coach at CLS for one season (August 2016 – October 2016). At no time prior to, during, or following Mr. Seidel’s brief tenure with the school was CLS notified of inappropriate conduct or communications occurring between Mr. Seidel and any student or underage female.

“Charlotte Latin School places the highest priority on the safety of its students,” Carpenter continued. “We conduct background and reference checks on all school personnel and did so with regard to Mr. Seidel.”

According to court documents, Indian Land High School also received reports that Seidel had allegedly used either a personal or business Instagram account to “like” sexually suggestive pictures of students at the school.

Seidel resigned abruptly after these allegations and sued the school district for breach of contract and unpaid wages in the amount of $2,161. Indian Land High School has not returned multiple requests for comment for this story.

Indian Land High School posted the following message to their website, originally on April 25, 2017, when Seidel began working there, then updated after his departure on Nov. 17 of the same year:

“Indian Land Varsity Volleyball wishes coach Jim Seidel nothing but the best in all his volleyball endeavors. Indian Land High School is thankful to have coach Seidel at the school, even for a short time, and the Lancaster School District gives coach Jim Seidel our highest recommendation to anyone about coach Jim Seidel. His integrity, character and coaching skills are exemplary and we are a better team because of coach Seidel. We look forward to following his career as one of the winningest volleyball coaches in high school and club volleyball.”

In regards to the allegation of sexual assault of an underage employee at the Carolina Meat & Fish Co., who spoke with Queen City Nerve, the parents of that employee are aware of the situation, but no legal action has been taken as of yet.

In October 2020, an anonymous citizen began dropping fliers around Jim’s community and workplace alleging that he was a sexual predator. In response, Jim accused Clara, who at that point had already quit following the incident on Mother’s Day of the same year, of distributing the fliers. Queen City Nerve has confirmed that Clara did not distribute the flyers.

Though he worked as head volleyball coach at Fort Mill High School for the 2021 season, Jim Seidel is not listed on their website as a faculty member. Multiple sources told Queen City Nerve that Seidel has not been invited back as a coach for the upcoming school year. Seidel confirmed in an email that he is currently employed at a high school.

exterior view of Carolina Meat & Fish Co. in Charlotte owned by Jim Seidel

When asked if the school had been made aware of the aforementioned allegations against Seidel, and if he had been invited back to coach in the upcoming school year, a spokesperson for Fort Mill Schools (FMS) replied in an email, “Under privacy laws the district does not comment on specific personnel matters or future employment status.”

It is FMS policy that when “complaints to one or more board members against any action of any employee of the district or against any administrative rule or board policy, which in the judgment of the board members hearing the complaint requires investigation or action, will be referred to the superintendent for investigation, appropriate action or recommendations as the situation might justify.”

Legal threats

Seidel has publicly stated his belief that he himself is the victim of a smear campaign and has already taken legal action against people who have made allegations against him, both in the form of lawsuits and police investigations.

In a post on the Carolina Meat & Fish Co. website titled “Harassment, defamation, and libel” that’s dated Jan. 11, 2021, Seidel stated that he was working with the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office to investigate the anonymous former employees who were “seeking to work underhandedly, maliciously and with extreme hate to disparage the great reputation of the Carolina Meat & Fish Co.”

“We have been, are and continue to be upstanding members of the community, you are not, and will be prosecuted for your crimes,” Seidel wrote, before claiming that the anonymous sources making allegations against him could face three years in prison.

Seidel made similar claims to Queen City Nerve, stating that his wife had also been subject to harassment from anonymous phone numbers through the messaging platform WhatsApp.

He asked that Queen City Nerve turn over all info we received in relation to allegations against him and threatened that withholding the names of our sources could subject us to law enforcement action.

“I’ve chosen to engage law enforcement and investigators because myself and my family and business have been targets of pure harassment, defamation and libel and clearly law enforcement have seen these texts and messages and letters and their false statements and lies and are pursuing your anonymous sources (suspects) and have a long list of laws that they believe they have broken and wish to speak to them about all this,” he wrote in an email to Queen City Nerve.

We reached out to the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office about any ongoing investigation but did not get a response.

Seidel’s many legal threats and litigious past played a role in Clara’s decision not to file charges against him, she told Queen City Nerve.

“He told my friend … that he was going to take legal action and that he’s already done this before and he has taken someone down through legal action. Basically he was just insinuating that he has money and power. He told her that he would get a cease-and-desist and take my stuff to make sure that it wasn’t me. It definitely made me feel very worried. I’m just a teenager, I don’t have that kind of money or support in that way to defend myself and that was very alarming.”

Since that point, however, she has come to realize that speaking out is important, she said.

“I mean, at this point, I feel like it’s right,” she said. “If I say what I say, nothing can happen. If he wants to get upset over it, I do have nothing to lose.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of our sources.

Allison Braden contributed reporting to this story.

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