Beaufort County public safety director won't be charged, officials say

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comMay 2, 2014 

Phil Foot

STAFF PHOTO

No charges will be filed against Beaufort County's public safety director following a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division investigation, according to the S.C. Attorney General's Office.

"After looking through (the case), they determined there was not evidence to support a criminal conviction," Attorney General's Office spokesman Mark Powell said.

The office signed a letter Thursday formally declining to press charges against county public safety director Phil Foot, beginning the process to close the case file, Powell said.

Foot was cited by the county for a "protocol violation" in early December, shortly after the arrest of his 21-year-old stepdaughter.

He was placed on paid administrative leave for one week. An investigation into the incident was turned over to SLED by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office to avoid a conflict of interest, Sheriff P.J. Tanner has said.

Foot returned to work Dec. 9 but is working in the Beaufort County government annex in the Beaufort Industrial Village, county administrator Gary Kubic said. He is not supervising the Beaufort County Detention Center, which had been part of his duties, Kubic added.

Kubic said Friday he has not yet received official word that the investigation is finished.

"It's not my investigation, so I don't know what I'm allowed to do or say as far as what may or may not be the final findings," Kubic said. "So I'm stuck and can't comment further, but I'm grateful it's at the end."

Kubic intends to discuss the incident and investigation with Foot once it is formally closed. Kubic would not say whether Foot will face disciplinary action from the county.

"I'm relieved, though," he added. "I've always had great confidence in Phil."

Attempts Friday to reach Foot for comment were unsuccessful.

Until SLED formally closes the case, officials will not disclose details of the investigation or the incident that led to it, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.

"If no charges are brought, (prosecutors) will lay out in a declination letter that they won't charge," Berry said. "Once that's in the file, we'll start to close it out, and then the case is made available to the public."

In addition, Suezanne Foot, Phil Foot's wife, is returning to work after a two-month suspension, according to Peter O'Boyle, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.

At the end of January, she was suspended from her position as the agent in charge of the department's Beaufort County office and was involved in a "possible legal matter," O'Boyle said.

She has now returned, but not to the local office, he said.

"She'll be working out of Columbia for now, just to get back up to speed on things, and then she'll go back to the Beaufort office," O'Boyle said.

It is not immediately clear when that will happen or if she will return to the agent-in-charge position, he added. Attempts Friday to reach Suezanne Foot were unsuccessful.

Her daughter was arrested Dec. 1, one day before Phil Foot was placed on paid leave.

According to a Beaufort Police Department report and jail records, she was in the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot on Bay Street when a man was charged with attempted murder early Nov. 30. That charge was later dropped.

At the time, Beaufort police ordered her to leave the parking lot, but she was arrested more than 24 hours later and almost immediately released, jail records indicate.

No information on why she was arrested more than 24 hours after the incident was included in the police report, but deputy county administrator Bryan Hill called Kubic on the afternoon of Nov. 30 -- between the incident and the arrest -- to alert him of a protocol violation involving Phil Foot, Kubic has said.

County and state officials will not say if the investigation of Phil Foot is connected to his stepdaughter's arrest, nor will they say if the changes in Suezanne Foot's job status are connected to that incident.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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