Solicitor to get update next week on clerk of court accounts audit

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said he expects to receive a progress report next week from auditors sifting through at least 12 bank accounts used by the Beaufort County Clerk of Court's office.

The audit results could lead to more charges against former Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith, Stone said. Smith was indicted July 30 and charged with embezzling $23,500 from public accounts. She resigned hours before the indictments were announced.

Stone said it is possible Smith will face more charges and that he has not been givena timetable for the audit's completion.

"I'd rather have them do a thorough job than a fast job," Stone said Thursday. "I'm not trying to rush them."

Beaufort County Administrator Gary Kubic said the Columbia accounting firm of Scott McElveen, a Columbia accounting firm, was paid about $50,000 by the county to complete the audit of the clerk of court's bank accounts.

Smith appeared in Beaufort County Court last week for a routine preliminary hearing and is due back for another hearing Jan. 25.She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Stone said no trial date for Smith's trial has been set and that the former clerk hasn't been offered a plea deal.

The Magistrate Court audit

Once done with the clerk's office audit, the same audit team will be paid $15,000 to examine three bank accounts used by the Beaufort County Magistrate Court and review an internal audit during which employees discovered $10,000 in excess money in a fourth account.Kubic added that the audit could ultimately help improve financial procedures in the Magistrate's Office, making it worth the money to have it completed.

"What I'm principally interested in, apart from the bank reconciliations, is the recommendations that the audit report will have about procedures and controls," Kubic said. "The value of the service they provide is worth $15,000. I don't predicate the quality of the service being provided simply on the account adjustments."

Beaufort County's new Chief Magistrate Darlene Smith requested the audit upon taking office in October, according to county officials. Smith was appointed by S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal to replace Rita Simmons, who retired in October after 24 years on the bench.

County officials, including Kubic, called the audit "routine" and said the review should take no more than a month.

Stone said he was told about the Magistrate Court's audit by the county and the audit team and added that there is nothing to indicate any criminal wrongdoing at this point.

"No one is alleging anything criminal here. There isn't a criminal investigation going on and I don't anticipate that there will be," Stone said. "I can't say there never will be but you don't know until you get in there and see what's going on."