Atlantic Beach judge denies court issues presented in state auditor's report

Atlantic Beach judge denies court issues presented in state auditor's report

ATLANTIC BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The State Auditor's Office ran a report the on Atlantic Beach Municipal Court System, finding several issues, however, a judge has denied that there are any issues. 

The 13-page document is broken up into three sections. Section A: violations of state laws, rules, or regulations, Section B: Other weakness and Section C: Status of Prior Findings.

The auditor chosen under contract with the state, Steven L. Blake, started by pulling documents from the town's municipal court.

The issues he found were first with timely submission, stating nine of twelve State Treasurer's Revenue Remittance forms (STRRFs) weren't submitted to the town treasurer on time. They were 32 days late.

The second issue, titled Adherence to Fine Guidelines, states he found the court did not fine defendants in accordance with the state law. These discrepancies had to do with several speeding tickets, what defendants paid, and what they were supposed to pay depending on the posted speed limit. There was also one case where a defendant was charged too much for a parking ticket under state law.

The third issue was in regards to installment fees; the auditor stated some defendants were charged when they weren't supposed to be, while others never paid.

The auditor also found there were some clerical errors, where items were misdocumented, and he discovered the court could not provide an audited financial statement before the date of June 30, 2008.

The Town's response was: "The town treasurer stated that neither the previous treasurer nor clerk were able to provide the information requested."

Finally, the auditor looked at the municipal court bank account. Though the town discontinued using the account in 2011, the current balance is $12,532. 54. The auditor recommended the court find where this money is supposed to be, and whether it be paid back to the town of Atlantic Beach or towards victims' assistance.

The document closes by stating the management of the town of Atlantic Beach was copied and elected not to provide a written response to the findings.

"We administratively don't get involved in terms of that, so in terms of corrections that need to be made, they need to be made through the court system, the judge and the court clerk," Town Manager Benjamin Quattlebaum said.

State auditor George L. Kennedy told WMBF News the state requires his office to "randomly select municipalities for this agreed-upon process," and the last time the town of Atlantic Beach was selected was 2007.  He says his office does follow-up with municipalities chosen.

As for the municipal court, Judge Cheveron Scott responded to the report by saying he firmly believes the court is in compliance with state laws when it comes to assessments and fees. Scott says there is no way he or his clerk would be able to enter different fees into the system, and that everything is computer-generated. Furthermore, he says he never spoke with this auditor.

Judge Scott says if the court did break any state laws, the court administration would know because that is to whom the town's court reports.

As for the recommendations made, he says he plans to be more hands on and implement these recommendations.

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