Solicitor Duffie Stone investigates Elizabeth Smith Clerk of Court, Beaufort, SC
Posted in the Beaufort Forum
#1 Jul 23, 2009
Solicitor Duffie Stone investigates Elizabeth Smith Clerk of Court, Beaufort, SC
The Beaufort County Clerk of Court's office(Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith) is being investigated by the S.C. Ethics Commission, and 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said he will review the commission's findings for possible criminal wrongdoing.
Stone said he has been briefed regularly for "several weeks" by Ethics Commission investigators...
"We're still gathering information."
Herb Hayden, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said investigators forwarded the information to prosecutors because information had "possible criminal elements." It is the policy of the Ethics Commission not to comment on or even acknowledge the existence of ongoing investigations unless probable cause is found, according to Cathy Hazlewood, the commission's general counsel.
The ethics investigation became public Wednesday after the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office released an incident report detailing a complaint by deputy Beaufort County Clerk of Court Janice Young against the husband of Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith. Young said Beaufort County Drug Court Judge Manning Smith threatened her during a phone call June 16.
According to the incident report, Young told deputies that Manning Smith was upset Young had shared with County Finance Director David Starkey financial information regarding an Ethics Commission investigation into the Clerk's Office.
The report said Young indicated in a meeting with Starkey and Deputy County Administrator Bryan Hill "that activity in the 'bondsmen account,' specifically in the month of March 2009 should be reviewed thoroughly" as part of the Ethics Commission's investigation.
Young had shared the "bondsmen" bank statement with the county in "an attempt to reconcile every bank statement held by the county on a month basis,"...
Elizabeth Smith and Young worked together for more than two years, according to Suzanne Larson, county spokeswoman. Young's last day at the courthouse was July 10, Larson said. Elizabeth Smith would not say if Young quit or was fired.
According to the sheriff's incident report, Young said Manning Smith told her "handing your boss over was like me saying,'I'm going to murder you, Janice, shoot you in the head and spatter your brains all over the sidewalk.'"
Manning Smith told sheriff's investigators that his comment might have been misconstrued, adding that he "often speaks in analogies of violence," according to the report.
The threats caused Young such concern, according to the report, that she changed the locks of her home, slept with a gun and put a chair against her bedroom door.
"This guy is a good shot," Young said of Manning Smith in the report. "He's an excellent shot and he knows that I know that."
Smith acknowledged that he was a "superb" pistol shot in interviews with deputies but said he considered Young to be family.
#2 Jul 23, 2009
Bank statements part of ethics investigation of of Elizabeth Smith, Clerk of Court, Beaufort County, SXC
The S.C. Ethics Commission sought bank statements and other financial records from Beaufort County officials about the commission's probe of possible wrongdoing at the Beaufort County Clerk of Court's Office.
Gary Kubic, Beaufort County administrator, said the county was notified by the Ethics Commission about the investigation more than a month ago and has turned over a host of records.
County Finance Director David Starkey said most of those records were bank statements.
The ethics investigation became public after the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office released an incident report detailing a complaint by deputy Beaufort County Clerk of Court Janice Young against the husband of Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith. Young said Manning Smith, county Drug Court judge, threatened her during a phone call June 16.
According to the report released by the Sheriff's Office, Young told deputies that Manning Smith was upset she had indicated in a meeting with Starkey and Deputy County Administrator Bryan Hill "that activity in the 'bondsmen account,' specifically in the month of March 2009, should be reviewed thoroughly" by external auditors as part of the Ethics Commission's investigation.
In a subsequent meeting June 22, Young told Hill she had received threats from "either the clerk or her husband concerning the ethics investigation," according to a memo from Hill released by the Sheriff's Office.
The report said "other county employees" -- not Young -- first reported the alleged threat to authorities. Young gave her statement after Sheriff's Office investigators sought her statement.
Young told deputies that Manning Smith told her "handing your boss over was like me saying,'I'm going to murder you, Janice, shoot you in the head and spatter your brains all over the sidewalk.'"
Herb Hayden, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said Wednesday that investigators forwarded their initials findings to 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone because information had "possible criminal elements."
#3 Jul 30, 2009
Clerk of Court resigns after she is charged with embezzlement
Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith resigned from office Thursday, hours after a Beaufort County Grand Jury indicted her on charges of embezzling more than $23,500 from public accounts to buy insurance policies for family members andmake payments on a home on Pawleys Island.
#4 Aug 12, 2009
Beaufort County Drug Court Judge Manning Smith has been stripped of his seat on the bench, just more than a week after his wife was indicted on charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office and resigned as clerk of court.
S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal signed an order Monday rescinding Smith's powers to preside over the Drug Court for the 14th Judicial Circuit, a post he had held since June 15, 2001.
***Elizabeth Smith, the former clerk of court, resigned her post just minutes before Stone announced July 30 that a grand jury had indicted her on five charges. An S.C. Ethics Commission investigation continues, and Stone would not say if he expects more charges.
***However, one county official said Tuesday the Ethics Commission probe has led the county to hold back its funding to Drug Court. The $47,500 that the Beaufort County Council has earmarked for the program for the coming fiscal year will not be released until the investigation is over, per orders from the council and county administrator Gary Kubic, said deputy county administrator Bryan Hill.
Stone said his office would oversee the administrative functions of Drug Court until a replacement is named. The program diverts nonviolent offenders facing drug charges from prison into rehabilitation programs to try to stem their substance abuse.
The Ethics Commission investigation into the clerk's office became public last month after the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office released results of its investigation of a complaint against Manning Smith. Former deputy clerk of court Janice Young told authorities the judge threatened her during a phone call in June. Young dropped her complaint two days after deputies took her statement.
In interviews with deputies, Young said Manning Smith was upset that she had talked to county officials about the Ethics Commission's investigation into clerk's office finances.
A member of the state bar since earning her law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1995, Elizabeth Smith has been temporarily suspended from practicing law in the state. The S.C. Supreme Court granted a request last week from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the state Commission on Lawyer Conduct, to place her on interim suspension because of the indictments.
The counsel's request said she "poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or the administration of justice." She would have to be reinstated by the court to ever practice law again in the state.
***Toal appointed 6th Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith of Lancaster to hear Elizabeth Smith's case and preside over her arraignment hearing, which will mean that proceeding could take place in Lancaster County Circuit Court. A date for the hearing has not been set.
The hearing is expected to serve as Smith's bond hearing and when she will enter her plea regarding the charges, Stone said. She will not be arrested or booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center in the interim, he added.
#5 Aug 12, 2009
Order suspending Elizabeth Smith's law license
The Supreme Court of South Carolina
In the Matter of Elizabeth Mason Smith, Respondent.
Respondent, the Beaufort County Clerk of Court, was indicted for misconduct in office and embezzlement of public funds. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel has filed a petition asking the Court to place respondent on interim suspension pursuant to Rule 17(b), RLDE, Rule 413, SCACR, because she poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or the administration of justice.
IT IS ORDERED that the petition is granted and respondent is suspended, pursuant to Rule 17(b), RLDE, Rule 413, SCACR, from the practice of law in this State until further order of this Court.
s/ Costa M. Pleicones J.
FOR THE COURT
Columbia, South Carolina
July 31, 2009
#6 Aug 20, 2009
Former Clerk of Court to appear in Lancaster County court next week
Former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith will appear in court next week for the first time since her indictment by a Beaufort County grand jury last month for allegedly embezzling more than $23,500 from public accounts.
Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said an arraignment hearing -- a proceeding that is expected to serve as Smith's bond hearing and an opportunity for her to enter a plea -- is set for Tuesday in a Lancaster County courtroom. Sixth Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith of Lancaster was appointed by S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal to hear the case, which Stone will prosecute.
"I know that a lot of people wanted to see this happen as soon as possible, and this is as soon as possible," Stone said Wednesday.
A Beaufort County grand jury indicted Smith on July 30 on charges of embezzling more than $23,500 from two public accounts to buy insurance policies for family members and make payments on a home on Pawleys Island. Smith faxed a letter of resignation to Gov. Mark Sanford just minutes before Stone announced the indictments.
Smith was first elected Clerk of Court, a position that pays $74,138 a year, in 2000 and was re-elected to a third term in November.
Sanford later tapped Jeri Ann Roseneau of Beaufort to serve as the county's interim clerk of court.
Smith was not arrested or booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center following the indictments in accordance with state law, Stone said. She will be booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center after her arraignment next week.
"The statute is pretty clear that the (S.C.) Ethics Commission presents their findings to the prosecutor for presentation to the Grand Jury," he said. "I didn't think I had any wiggle room. It is not an unusual procedure. This is the way the statute reads to me."
Stone said Goldsmith will set Smith's bond Tuesday, at which time the former clerk will return to Beaufort to turn herself into local police.
"We've bypassed the magistrate process," Stone said. "When someone is arrested, there is a preliminary hearing and a probable-cause hearing, and we're not having any of that.(Smith) will be arraigned, have bond set and she'll be served the indictments. After this hearing, this indictment will be ready for trial."
Attempts to reach Smith and her attorney, Mike Macloskie of Beaufort, on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
She faces five to 10 years in prison on each count of embezzlement if convicted, according to state law.
If convicted of the embezzlement charges, Smith could hold public office again only if she receives approval to do so from two-thirds of the General Assembly and repays the money.
#7 Aug 26, 2009
Flanked by her attorney, Mike Macloskie of Beaufort, and her husband, former Beaufort County Drug Court Judge Manning Smith, Elizabeth Smith appeared before 6th Circuit Judge Brooks Goldsmith for the first time since being indicted by a Beaufort County grand jury last month on charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office.
A Beaufort County grand jury indicted Smith July 30 on charges of embezzling more than $23,500 from two public accounts to buy insurance policies for family members and make payments on a home on Pawleys Island. The indictments were the result of a still ongoing investigation by the S.C. Ethics Commission into the clerk of court's finances.
After the arraignment, Ethics Commission Investigator Dan Choate said the money Smith is accused of taking to pay for insurance premiums had been repaid, but payment was made almost a year after the money was taken from the court account.
It is still not clear if all other funds have been repaid to other accounts.
"The last repayment was made the day before I arrived to investigate," he said.
Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone revealed during Thursday's hearing that he had requested the Commission's help in taking a closer look at the clerk's books. Stone said he requested the inquiry after receiving information that money was being funneled from the Clerk's Office to the Fourteenth Circuit's Drug Court, a court Smith's husband presided over. Toal rescinded Manning Smith's judgeship earlier this month.
Stone alleged that the money Elizabeth Smith had allocated for Drug Court was taken from the "4D" account, money used to fund child support enforcement. The account receives 66 percent of its funding from the federal government, prompting Stone to request investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services examine Smith's use of federal funds. That investigation is ongoing, he said.
#9 Aug 26, 2009
Ex-court clerk is booked into county jail; investigation of finances continues
Former Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith followed court orders Wednesday and turned herself in at the Beaufort County jail, where she was arrested and booked on charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office.
She was released on her own recognizance after 23 minutes, according to the jail log. Smith was booked on four counts of embezzlement of public funds and one count of misconduct in office. Those charges stem from an ongoing state Ethics Commission investigation into the finances of the clerk's office during her administration.
She also faces an investigation by a federal agency on possible misuse of child support enforcement funds that might have been diverted to county Drug Court, over which her husband, Manning Smith, presided, according to Solicitor Duffie Stone.
Stone declined to say Wednesday whether investigators had determined if Elizabeth Smith took money from the "4D" child support enforcement account, which draws 66 percent of its funding from the federal government, and what connection, if any, Manning Smith might have had to that money.
Manning Smith's judgeship was rescinded earlier this month by S.C. Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal, days after his wife was indicted and resigned. Toal has not given a reason for his dismissal.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is investigating the 4D fund, Stone said.
"That money is federally regulated, so I've asked them to come in and help determine if that money was used ethically and properly," Stone said Wednesday. "That is a federal issue as to what that money can and can't be spent on."
Stone declined to say whether Manning or Elizabeth Smith would face charges as a result of the activity in the 4D account.
"I can't rule that out or insinuate that that is going to happen," he said.
The 4D account is separate from the bondsmen and fines and fees accounts from which Smith is accused of embezzling more than $23,500 between 2006 and 2008. Smith's attorney, Mike Macloskie of Beaufort, said in court Tuesday that the former clerk had not taken money from the accounts that she had not paid back.
During Tuesday's arraignment in Lancaster, Smith was ordered by 6th Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith to report to the jail before noon Wednesday or face arrest. Toal appointed Goldsmith to hear Smith's case.
Smith's next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 25 in Beaufort County.
A Beaufort County grand jury indicted Smith on July 30 on charges of embezzling more than $23,500 from two public accounts to buy insurance policies for relatives and make payments on a home on Pawleys Island.
Smith pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday. Judge Goldsmith set Smith's bond at $25,000 Tuesday but allowed her to be released from jail on her own recognizance.
#10 Sep 4, 2009
I can not speak for Elizabeth Smith or her intentions, motives, and reasoning. I can however say with extreme confidence and sincerity that Judge Manning Smith is one of the most caring, sincere, honest, and helpful human beings I have ever met. I do not agree with the comments he made to Ms. Young, but I can assure everyone there was no violent intentions behind them and I'm saddened to see his good name getting dragged through the press/mud(same things). Judge Smith will work through all of this and at the end be standing taller and stronger then any of his critics. Thank you Judge Smith for everything you have done for me, and all of those you have helped over the years. Don't let the bastards grind you down.
#11 Oct 25, 2009
Records from the Internal Revenue Service and the state Secretary of State's Office list:
Elizabeth Smith as the registered agent for two nonprofit corporations set up for the Drug Court: Beaufort County Drug Court Inc. and Beaufort County Problem Solving Courts Inc.
The first, Beaufort County Drug Court Inc., was created in August 2002 and was deactivated the same year, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue.
It's successor, Beaufort County Problem Solving Courts Inc., was created in November 2004 and became a registered nonprofit with the IRS in 2006.
It is not clear why nonprofit corporations were set up for the Drug Court.
According to an IRS form filed in November 2008 for the Drug Court's 2007 fiscal year the latest IRS filing available:
Manning Smith was the president of Beaufort County Problem Solving Courts Inc. The nonprofit had a seven-member board of directors, according to the IRS filing. Members included:
Beaufort attorneys Bruce Marshall and Corey Fleming, Hilton Head Island attorney Samuel Bauer, Beaufort County Planning Commission member E. Parker Sutler, Beaufort artist Robert Killian-Dawson, University of South Carolina-Beaufort professor Belinda Eggen and Frances Boyne. All board members served without pay.
Beaufort County Family Court Judge Peter Fuge was also a board member, according to his S.C. Judicial Department biography.
According to the IRS filing,
-the Drug Court's revenue in 2007 was $143,560. It came mainly from contributions by local governments namely the town of Hilton Head and Beaufort County, which contributed $48,500 and $47,500 respectively. The Drug Court's expenses were $105,271 that year, with Manning Smith's $60,000 salary being the largest single expense. When the Drug Court started in 2001,
#12 Nov 15, 2011
What about the other members of this "committee"? Seems to me that all of them should be relieved of their duties until there is a full investigation as to all of their involvement in this. They had no idea that there was embezzlement going on? Come on, really?
#13 Oct 9, 2012
Federal probation for former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith will end a year early. Smith's attorney, Lionel Lofton of Charleston, filed a motion Sept. 7 stating Smith had complied with all terms of her probation, which included six months of house arrest, and a judge has granted that request. Smith was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in September 2010 with writing five unauthorized checks worth $338,500 in federal child-support funds to pay her husband's salary while he oversaw the Beaufort County Drug Court between January 2006 and June 2009, according to an indictment. She remains on probation in South Carolina through 2016. She has not filed for a reduction of that probation, court records indicate.
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