Beaufort County officials are unsure whether a special election should be held this year for a new clerk of court to replace Elizabeth Smith, who resigned last week after being charged with embezzlement.
County attorney Ladson Howell is seeking an official opinion from the state Attorney General's Office about when the election should occur and how long the interim clerk to be appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford can serve.
One section of state law says the county should hold a special election on the 18th Tuesday after the office holder's resignation, which would be Dec. 1. A primary would be held Oct. 13.
But another sectionsays the appointee should be allowed to serve until the next general election if the office they are filling has a fixed term, according to Scott Marshall, director of the county Board of Elections and Voter Registration. The clerk of court has a four-year term.
"You don't fill those positions with a special election," Marshall said Tuesday. "The definitive length of term for the appointee is still to be decided. However, the appointee will serve in the position until at least the (November) 2010 general election."
County administrator Gary Kubic said the county "is seeking a review to give us some guidance on the matter."
Howell was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon. Kubic said he thinks Howell will have contacted the Attorney General's office by this morning to request an opinion.
"The first thing that we're looking for is to get an interim director there so we begin to have some stability in the office," Kubic said. "It is an office that has several requirements, a multitude of functions. And a lot of those functions have a time-sensitive quality."
Sanford'spick for an interim clerk of court is expected today at the earliest, spokesman Joel Sawyer said Monday.
State Reps. Bill Herbkersman and Shannon Erickson and state Sen. Tom Davis have recommended the governor appoint Jerri Ann Roseneau of Beaufort, an assistant to Howell at the Lady's Island firm of Howell, Gibson and Hughes.
Until the appointment is made, Beaufort County Probate Court Judge Francis Simon is in charge of the clerk's office.