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Embattled treasurer: "If the county wants me, I'll be here'

Beaufort County Treasurer Joy Logan is shown in her office in the government complex off Ribaut Road.
Beaufort County Treasurer Joy Logan is shown in her office in the government complex off Ribaut Road.

Beaufort County Treasurer Joy Logan doesn't like her job -- at least not right now.

The drive from her Lobeco home to her office on the bottom floor of the Beaufort County administration building seems longer and lonelier than ever these days.

"Once I get here, I'm fine but it's getting here (that's tough)," Logan said. "It's like, 'What am I going to be faced with today?' I hate to come to work. I'd much rather be somewhere else than sitting in this chair. Do I want to be here? Not under these circumstances."

For Logan, 63, the last year has been marked with professional and personal nightmares, including the May 12 arrest of Casundra White, a former Treasurer's Office employee accused of stealing more than $210,000 from public accounts, and the death of her husband, Sam, in March.

Logan has rebuffed calls from county administrator Gary Kubic and County Council for her resignation after White's arrest. They have criticized Logan for rehiring White after she was caught stealing $600 in 2007.

Beaufort County School District officials became Logan's newest critics last week after the Treasurer's Office failed to make $2.8 million in timely payments on several school bonds.

Still, Logan refuses to quit.

"What did I do wrong?" Logan said. "They act like I committed the crime. The people have got to vote me out. I'm going to make my appearances, do the best I can, and if the county wants me, I'll be here."

'SHE'S MADE MY LIFE MISERABLE'

Logan blames her recent unpopularity on the employee twice accused of stealing from the Treasurer's Office.

White worked for the office in two stints, the first ending not long after she allegedly was caught stealing $600 in cash from an office bank deposit in 2007. Logan did not report the theft because White immediately replaced the money, the treasurer has said.

Logan re-hired White in 2008 but fired her Feb. 19 this year after the treasurer learned investigators intended to charge White for the 2007 theft. They found out about that incident while trying to locate missing proceeds from a delinquent-tax sale late last year.

The Sheriff's Office and the company hired to conduct an audit of the sale, KPMG, said co-workers and supervisors in Logan's office seldom verified check requests or double-checked each other's work and concluded records were in such disarray, it might never be known how much tax-sale money is missing.

Also as a result of that investigation, White was charged in May with stealing more than $210,000 from public accounts between September 2007 and May 2008, funneling them to dummy corporations she set up with her then-boyfriend, Adrian Coore.

Embezzlement and criminal conspiracy charges against White and Coore still are pending. Both are free on bond, according to the county's jail log."I made a mistake in judgment," Logan said of her decision to rehire White. "People make them all the time. I'm relieved (she was arrested.) She disrespected me and disrespected all of her fellow employees. She's made my life miserable. I'm uncomfortable going out in public ... because of the potential for ridicule."

As Logan tried to restore order in her office, she attempted to do the same in her personal life. Her husband of 17 years died March 29 at age 85 after a short bout with melanoma.

"He was the greatest guy in the world, and I wish we would have had more time together," Logan said, her eyes welling with tears. "He told me before he died not to quit, and I haven't. He gave me a lot of strength."

THE FALLOUT

White's arrest prompted Kubic to call for Logan to step down, and later that month, County Council followed suit by unanimously approving a resolution seeking her resignation.

Weston Newton, council chairman, said the resolution was an attempt to restore public trust in all county officials.

"Local government is all about trust and confidence, and when that confidence is lost, it has a tendency to permeate all other aspects of local government," Newton said.

Logan's supporters claim local officials were piling on for their own political gain.

"She's really been through a lot, and it's unseemly ... to play hardball with a lady who has given her whole life in service to Beaufort County," said Lexington County Treasurer Jim Eckstrom. "If she could have an embezzler in her office, it could happen to any of us."

Laura Von Harten was the only council member not present for that vote, but she has suggested the county change its form of government so that the treasurer is no longer an elected official.

As it stands, Logan will face an election opponent for the first time since winning the 1990 Republican primary. She went on to claim the seat that November in her first run for the office and hasn't been challenged in a primary or general election since.

That looked to be the case again this year -- Logan was the only candidate to enter the race by the March 30 party-primary filing deadline.

But White's arrest a little more than a month later prompted three men to consider running against Logan as petition candidates.

One of them -- Doug Henderson, a retired banker and Cat Island resident -- submitted enough signatures to the county Board of Voter Registration and Elections to get on the November ballot opposite Logan.

"I would not be in this campaign unless I thought the treasurer's job could be done better," Henderson said. "Most taxpayers do not think highly of elected officials to begin with, and when you add that to not being good stewards of their hard-earned tax dollars, it tends to make people angry."

NEW CRITICISMS

Logan was confronted with yet another problem this week.

The Treasurer's Office was late paying about $2.8 million in Beaufort County School District bond payments -- five separate payments -- that were due Wednesday, said Phyllis White, the district's operational services chief. The Treasurer's Office is responsible for making the school district's debt payments.

After its banks called Wednesday, the district was able to move money from another account to cover two payments. It had to wait until Thursday for the Treasurer's Office to pay the rest, White said.

White said she was able to work with the banks, so the district won't have to pay any penalties or late fees. The incident should not affect the district's bond rating, she said.

Bob Arundell, vice chairman of the county Board of Education, said the board has worked hard in recent years to maintain its high bond rating.

"Do I want it to go to hell in a hand basket because the Treasurer's Office had the money, had the paperwork and just dropped the ball?" he asked. "It's inexcusable for a treasurer's office to miss a major bond payment."

Logan said the member of her staff responsible for processing the school district's debt payments suffered an asthma attack this week, and making the payments "slipped through the cracks."

FIGHTING FOR HER JOB

With a political opponent for the first time in nearly 20 years, Logan is back on the campaign trail.

Rachel Buie, chairwoman of the county Republican Party, said Logan might not enjoy the support among county Republicans she has in the past.

"A lot of Republicans have a problem with the job she's done, and a lot of people will probably vote against her," Buie said. "We won't endorse her, but we also won't come out against her."

Because of her damaged relationship with Kubic and other county officials, Logan is questioning whether she still wants the job, and she added she won't break the bank on her reelection campaign.

"Do I expect to win? In my heart, yes," Logan said. "But we can't keep rolling like this. I've just come to realize that regardless of whether I quit or not, if the powers that be continue, it won't matter if I'm here or not. They'll make it so that I can't stay."

Reporter Kate Cerve contributed to this story.

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