Priorities for Beaufort County clerk of court candidates differ

achristnovich@islandpacket.comApril 16, 2012 

Beaufort County's clerk of court said she took over a troubled office and has improved its bookkeeping and computer programs and helped make jury selection more efficient.

Her challenger in the upcoming Republican primary, who worked in the clerk's office from 2007 to 2009, said customer service has been on the decline for years, and he intends to change that.

Jerri Ann Roseneau and challenger Ray Garza spoke Tuesday to a gathering of about 15 people at a Republican Women of Beaufort County forum at Truffles restaurant in Bluffton.

Roseneau emphasized that she stabilized the office after she was appointed in 2009 by Gov. Mark Sanford after her predecessor, Elizabeth Smith, resigned in the wake of an investigation into misuse of public funds. Smith was found guilty in 2010 of embezzling $23,500.

"I came into a situation that was troubled," she said. "The first thing I wanted to do was to restore trust to the public office."

This will mark Roseneau's first run for office.

Her office, she said, is responsible for paying for many administrative tasks, such as gas-mileage reimbursements to jury members. The more efficient the jury-selection process, the less likely potential jurors will have to be paid to come back more than one day.

Garza worked in the office, first as a clerk for criminal court and then as a division chief for common pleas, from 2007 to 2009. He said he would focus on customer service. If elected, he said, he would reduce the cost of making copies of legal documents -- currently 50 cents a page -- and allow clerks to keep enough cash on hand to make change for customers paying for fines and fees.

"We need to cater to the people more," he said. "The last thing I want is for people to be told that they need to go across the street to get change."

Roseneau said making change for customers paying fees or fines with cash is "not in high demand" and said she put the policy for exact change in place because of the previous embezzlement problems.

The clerk serves a four-year term; the current salary is $78,500. The office has 23 employees and schedules six bailiffs when court is in session.

Related content

  1. Competition under way for four seats in Beaufort County Primary, March 30, 2012
  2. Governor names Beaufort's Jerri Ann Roseneau clerk of court, Aug. 7, 2009

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