Probate judge to fill in until governor names interim clerk of court

Beaufort County Probate Court Judge Francis Simon will run the Beaufort County Clerk of Court's Office until Gov. Mark Sanford picks a temporary replacement for former Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith.

Smith resigned Thursday after being indicted by a Beaufort County Grand Jury on allegations of embezzlement of public funds and misconduct in office, leaving Simon, a Hilton Head Island resident who has presided over county Probate Court since 1994, to perform the duties of clerk. State law puts the probate court judge in charge until the governor names in interim clerk.

The county Legislative Delegation, which includes the five representatives and two senators who represent Beaufort County in the General Assembly, on Friday faxed to Sanford's office its consensus recommendation for interim clerk -- Jerri Ann Roseneau of Beaufort, an assistant to attorney Ladson Howell at the Lady's Island firm of Howell, Gibson and Hughes.

State law requires that the county hold a special election to elect a new clerk of court on the 18th Tuesday following Smith's resignation, putting the special election Dec. 1.

Joel Sawyer, spokesman for Sanford, said the governor is on vacation and will not return to the office until Wednesday.

Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, said he's hopeful Roseneau will be appointed to the office before then.

"We would like to see this get this get done Monday," he said. "If we can't make it happen until Wednesday, then I guess we have to wait but this is such an important office that we felt it necessary to act on this immediately."

In the meantime, Simon is in charge.

"We are going to do our best to have as smooth a transition as possible," Simon said Friday. "We want to have a good tenure and continue to service the public as professionally as possible."

As Probate Court judge, Simon rules on cases involving wills, trusts and estates. The clerk of court is responsible for maintaining all court records and overseeing the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort County Courthouse.

Herbkersman said Roseneauwas the unanimous choice of the delegation, as well as Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner and 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone.

"This recommendation is not a political thing at all," Herbkersman said. "This is a necessity."

Roseneau could not be reached for comment Friday.Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said Roseneau's experience with the county court system and the recommendations from Tanner and Stone made her an attractive candidate to local legislators.

"We need someone to manage that important county office and manage this transition," Erickson said. "We believe that Jerri's qualifications are very strong and that her knowledge of Beaufort County and of the courthouse is extensive."