Beaufort News

Making the county treasurer, auditor posts appointed positions still under discussion

Some Beaufort County Council members say they still want to consider making the county auditor and treasurer appointed positions, even though voters on Tuesday ousted a longtime incumbent whose office has been beset by management and legal concerns.

Beaufort County Treasurer Joy Logan was turned out in favor of petition candidate Doug Henderson, the first election opponent she had faced since 1990.

Earlier this year, Councilwoman Laura Von Harten of Beaufort sent an e-mail to several county officials suggesting they consider changing from a council-administrator model, in which the treasurer and auditor are elected, to a council-manager model, in which County Council can either appoint those positions or choose to fill them through an election.

Von Harten's suggestion came after the May 12 arrest of former employee Casaundra White, who was charged with stealing $210,000 from public accounts, and a largely critical independent audit of the Treasurer's Office in June.

Tuesday's election has done little to change Von Harten's mind.

"I still think we need to consider adopting a council-manager form of government," Von Harten said last week. "It would give us flexibility. We can choose to keep the status quo or choose to hire financial professionals to carry out the functions of the treasurer and auditor."

Henderson said he thinks voters deserve the chance to fill those offices.

"I don't want to give up the right to vote for that position," Henderson said. "We give up so many rights already. The people should have the ability to vote people in and out of office when they feel it's appropriate."

Henderson takes office July 1 -- the beginning of the fiscal year -- in accordance with state law.

According to county officials, Beaufort County's council-administrator form predates South Carolina's 1975 Home Rule Act, which created county councils that were independent of the state legislature.

Changing the form of government would require council to conduct two public hearings and three votes before the question could appear on a referendum.

The U.S. Department of Justice also must determine that the change is not discriminatory, according to a department spokesman.

Councilman Stu Rodman of Hilton Head Island said changing the form of government would modernize the way the county does business and manages its finances.

"It's a more modern form of government," Rodman said. "It's also a way to have all the county's financial activity consolidated. We've seen what can go wrong when it's separated."