ST. GEORGE — Dorchester County Council has asked for a state audit of the magistrate’s court, even though the court is audited annually and there are no specific concerns, say council members and the chief judge.
The call for an audit by the S.C. Treasurer’s office comes after Lee Moulder, the county’s budget and finance director, pointed out in a monthly financial report that the magistrate’s court budget reflected a revenue drop from $955,500 to $891,500, a loss that was blamed at least partly on a drop in the number of S.C. Highway Patrol traffic tickets being prosecuted.
Some residents questioned how fines and other receipts are handled by the court. S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis pushes for greater accountability and transparency in how state agencies spend their money.
The county asked for the audit as it struggles to balance its budget with continuing revenue shortfalls.
“We don’t know of any problem,” said County Council Chairman Larry Hargett. “They handle a lot of cash. I don’t know that we’re on witch hunt. We just want to make sure accounting procedures are adequate and money is being properly accounted for.”
Other council members agreed.
“We’re looking under every rock to make sure the county is getting every dime it’s entitled to, and to make sure it’s being spent properly,” said Councilman David Chinnis.
The treasurer’s office typically handles one or two similar requests per year for an audit, said Brian DeRoy, the treasurer’s public affairs director. Sometimes they are requested by the county; sometimes the treasurer requests the audit when money problems turn up in a county. The treasurer did not ask for this audit, he said.
“Absolutely not,” said magistrate’s court Chief Judge Maite Murphy when asked if she had concerns about how money is handled by the court. “In improving the elements of transparency, we ‘re happy to cooperate and provide any information.”