Beaufort News

Most Beaufort Council members inclined to let judge incident drop

The Beaufort City Council apparently has not talked with and will not discipline an assistant municipal court judge who appeared intoxicated when she nudged a city police officer in an incident earlier this month.

Gary Fordham was the only of five council members contacted Thursday who said the incident merits further investigation. He said City Council, which hires municipal court judges, should call meetings with the police department and Mary Sharp.

Fordham was one of three council members reached days after the Oct. 2 incident who said they needed more information before deciding whether to discipline Sharp for "nudging" a Beaufort police officer in the chest near the former Lipsitz Department Store on Bay Street, according to a police report.

"A judge is held to a higher standard of accountability than a normal individual," Fordham said.

Sharp could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Sharp apparently walked away from the officer and into a nearby restaurant and was not arrested, according to a Beaufort County dispatch report. The city police did not file an incident report.

On Oct. 5, Mayor Billy Keyserling said city officials planned to review the incident.

Keyserling said Thursday he later met with City Manager Scott Dadson to review a report from police Chief Matt Clancy.

"It's a personnel matter, and we personally didn't see the need to do anything more," Keyserling said.

Councilwoman Donnie Beer said she didn't believe further review was necessary and had no further comment.

Councilman Mike McFee said Sharp's actions might have shown poor judgment, but no police report was filed and there's no indication that this is characteristic behavior from Sharp.

Councilman Mike Sutton had a similar stance.

"The police officer made a decision that (her actions) were not grounds for arrest," Sutton said. "Mary Sharp is going to have to make a decision on whether she's comfortable in her role. ... I personally think she's fit to be a judge."

Police officers were called to Bay Street at about 9 p.m. Oct. 2 to reports of an intoxicated woman matching Sharp's description lying on the ground, according to a dispatch report provided by the city of Beaufort Police Department.

Sharp had difficulty walking, the report said, and the officers had to shout and shine a flashlight on her to keep her attention.

The report said after the officer told Sharp someone concerned about her welfare had called police, Sharp nudged the officer three or four times saying "Really? Really?" and "Come on you're joking."

She then walked into a nearby restaurant, used the phone and was picked up by Municipal Court Judge Ned Tupper, the report said.