Leaders of the Beaufort County Democratic and Republican parties were united Friday in their belief incumbent Beaufort County Treasurer Joy Logan should not run unopposed in November's general election.
After the arrest this week of a former Treasurer's Office employee accused of embezzling more than $210,000 of the county's money, Blaine Lotz, chairman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, and his Republican counterpart Rachel Buie said they hoped someone would come forward to offer voters a choice.
"It's clear that there are problems in the Treasurer's Office that have to be corrected, and it would be good for the voters to have someone run against her," Buie said.
Lotz said he was unsuccessful in attempts to recruit "several qualified candidates" to run months before the March 30 filing deadline, believing Logan was vulnerable.
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"I don't think the voters care whether the person is a Republican or Democrat," Lotz added. "When it comes to this office, they (only) care about that person's qualifications to serve as Beaufort County Treasurer."
Logan was the only candidate who filed to run for treasurer, a job that pays more than $80,000 a year, by the deadline, according to the S.C. Election Commission. Logan has held the position since 1991.
Beaufort County Councilwoman Laura Von Harten said this week that city of Beaufort comptroller Mack Cook is considering becoming a petition candidate. Cook, contacted Friday, would neither confirm nor deny his intention to run.
A candidate interested in challenging Logan in November would have to submit a petition with signatures from 5,000 registered voters from Beaufort County and file it with the Election Commission by July 15, according to Scott Marshall, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections.
Each signature collected is verified by the state, Marshall said.
"It's a lot tougher to get 5,000 good signatures than it is to just get 5,000 signatures," Marshall said.
FEW LEGAL OPTIONS
Beaufort County Administrator Gary Kubic and several County Council members called for Logan's resignation after Casaundra White was charged Wednesday with embezzlement. Kubic also accused Logan of trying to hire an employee without following county protocol and said she misrepresented herself as a certified public accountant for years on the county's website.
Logan said earlier this week she will not step down.
She will make a statement to the media at 2:30 p.m. Monday in her office, according to a news release sent Friday afternoon by county spokeswoman Suzanne Larson. The one-line release did not say what Logan would talk about, and Logan, contacted after the announcement, refused to comment.
If Logan does not resign, few legal mechanisms exist to remove her from office.
"You're basically talking about impeachment, and that doesn't exist for any elected office less than the governor," said Beaufort County Attorney Lad Howell. "I've never seen that happen."
State law does allow the governor to remove or suspend a county treasurer during a recess of the Senate if there is evidence to suggest that official is guilty of"misconduct in office, a crime or (is) incapable or legally disqualified to perform his duty."
Ben Fox, spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, said Friday that Sanford did not know enough about Logan to consider taking action.
"We'd obviously have to know a lot more about it and fully look into the matter," Fox said.
NO ETHICS VIOLATION
White, the former Treasurer's Office employee, is accused of funneling more than $210,000 of public money to dummy companies she set up with her ex-boyfriend between May 2007 and September 2008.
Her ex-boyfriend, Adrian Coore, is wanted on five counts of criminal conspiracy and has yet to be arrested.
Logan said White was caught stealing $600 from a bank deposit in 2007 and was allowed to resign. However, Logan did not report the theft to law enforcement, and she rehired White in 2008.
Cathy Hazelwood, general counsel to the S.C. Ethics Commission, said Logan "absolutely did not" commit an ethics violation by not reporting the 2007 theft.
"There is no affirmative duty in state ethics law to report ethical violations," Hazelwood said.
Logan has said White confessed to the crime when confronted and put the money back, giving her no reason to contact police.
White was fired Feb. 19 after Logan was notified by the Sheriff's Office that it intended to pursue criminal charges for the 2007 theft. Sheriff's Office investigators charged White with one count of breach of trust with fradulent intent March 1 in connection with that theft.
Those charges are still pending, according to court records.