Ex-court clerk is booked into county jail; investigation of finances continues

Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith

Former Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith followed court orders Wednesday and turned herself in at the Beaufort County jail, where she was arrested and booked on charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office.

She was released on her own recognizance after 23 minutes, according to the jail log. Smith was booked on four counts of embezzlement of public funds and one count of misconduct in office. Those charges stem from an ongoing state Ethics Commission investigation into the finances of the clerk's office during her administration.

She also faces an investigation by a federal agency on possible misuse of child support enforcement funds that might have been diverted to county Drug Court, over which her husband, Manning Smith, presided, according to Solicitor Duffie Stone.

Stone declined to say Wednesday whether investigators had determined if Elizabeth Smith took money from the "4D" child support enforcement account, which draws 66 percent of its funding from the federal government, and what connection, if any, Manning Smith might have had to that money.

Manning Smith's judgeship was rescinded earlier this month by S.C. Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal, days after his wife was indicted and resigned. Toal has not given a reason for his dismissal.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is investigating the 4D fund, Stone said.

"That money is federally regulated, so I've asked them to come in and help determine if that money was used ethically and properly," Stone said Wednesday. "That is a federal issue as to what that money can and can't be spent on."

Stone declined to say whether Manning or Elizabeth Smith would face charges as a result of the activity in the 4D account.

"I can't rule that out or insinuate that that is going to happen," he said.

The 4D account is separate from the bondsmen and fines and fees accounts from which Smith is accused of embezzling more than $23,500 between 2006 and 2008. Smith's attorney, Mike Macloskie of Beaufort, said in court Tuesday that the former clerk had not taken money from the accounts that she had not paid back.

During Tuesday's arraignment in Lancaster, Smith was ordered by 6th Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith to report to the jail before noon Wednesday or face arrest. Toal appointed Goldsmith to hear Smith's case.

Smith's next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 25 in Beaufort County.

A Beaufort County grand jury indicted Smith on July 30 on charges of embezzling more than $23,500 from two public accounts to buy insurance policies for relatives and make payments on a home on Pawleys Island.

Smith pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday. Judge Goldsmith set Smith's bond at $25,000 Tuesday but allowed her to be released from jail on her own recognizance.