Story courtesy of our news partners, MyHorryNews
Horry County Auditor Lois Eargle fired auditor-elect Beth Calhoun Wednesday, more than seven months before Calhoun can be sworn in to lead the office she won this month.
Eargle declined to discuss the reasons behind her decision, but it followed a larceny investigation by the Horry County Sheriff’s Office that was requested by deputy auditor Judy Clardy, who resigned on Monday, and Calhoun, the assistant deputy auditor, according to a copy of a sheriff’s office report obtained by myhorrynews.com. The investigation did not result in criminal charges.
“This situation should have never went this far,” Eargle said.
Neither Clardy nor Calhoun could be reached for comment Wednesday. Calhoun has worked for the auditor’s office for nearly two decades.
Sheriff Phillip Thompson confirmed that his office had investigated the matter and found no evidence of a crime. Criminal investigations are typically the purview of the county police department or the local agency over the jurisdiction where the incident occurred. Thompson said his staff was asked to look into the situation by another county official.
“That’s why we did it,” he said.
The sheriff’s office report states that Clardy and Calhoun told sheriff’s officials that they suspected a former employee of the auditor’s office, Sandra Beckwith, had stolen personal items from Clardy’s desk drawers. Clardy said she was missing a letter of recommendation for Calhoun, her will and IRS letters to Clardy’s family, among other items.
Beckwith had moved from the auditor’s office to the treasurer’s office after Calhoun won the Republican Primary for auditor in June. Eargle, who has held the post for nearly 30 years, did not seek reelection and endorsed Calhoun’s opponent, R.A. Johnson. The auditor handles the county’s tax billing and the office’s terms are based on the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Although Calhoun won the general election on Nov. 3, Eargle will be the auditor through the remainder of this term. Calhoun’s firing will not impact her ability to assume elected office in July.
When she first met with the sheriff’s office, Clardy said she suspected Beckwith had entered her office after business hours on a weekday or over a weekend and taken the items, according to the report.
Lt. Chip Squires, who investigated the matter for the sheriff’s office, wrote in the report that investigators had reviewed surveillance video of the Horry County Government and Justice Center looking for footage of individuals matching Beckwith’s description. He could not find any evidence of Beckwith entering the office during non-business hours, according to the report.
When the sheriff’s office told Clardy there was no evidence of Beckwith going into the building on a weekend or after hours, she said it was possible Eargle had given Beckwith the auditor’s access card, the report stated. However, there was no record of Eargle or Beckwith’s card being used during non-business hours.
When confronted with this information, Clardy gave the sheriff’s office names of other auditor’s office employees who had stories about Beckwith taking items from desk drawers.
She provided five names, then specifically asked that the investigator not interview a sixth worker because she was a “mole” for Beckwith, according to the report.
The investigator spoke with an employee who said Beckwith had taken paperwork or other items out of her desk on two occasions.
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