Bank statements part of ethics investigation of clerk's office

The S.C. Ethics Commission sought bank statements and other financial records from Beaufort County officials, who offered few other new details Thursday 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 Thursday most of those recordswere bank statements. He added that he was asked by the Ethics Commission not to comment further on the state's inquiry.

The Clerk of Court oversees the daily operation of the courthouse and maintains the county's court records.

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 Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith. Young said Manning Smith, county Drug Court judge, threatened her during a phone call June 16.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office closed its investigation of the phone call when Young declined to press charges.

Attempts to reach Young for comment on Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful.

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.'"

Kubic and Starkey both said they did not know what the Ethics Commission is looking for or who lodged the complaint that launched the investigation.

A lawyer for the commission said Thursday such information would not be made public until the investigation had concluded.

"I can neither confirm, nor deny the existence of a complaint," said Cathy Hazlewood, the commission's general counsel. "All complaint matters are confidential until final disposition."

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."

Both Stone and Hayden declined to give details about the investigation.