Ex-Patriots Point head had lewd photos on computer

State investigators will not press charges against David Burnette, the former executive director of Patriots Point who resigned in late October after a co-worker found lewd photos and messages on his computer.

The State Law Enforcement Division said it will not pursue an investigation of the material, none of which involved minors, Patriots Point Chairman John Hagerty said.

The lewd material was discovered on Burnette's work computer in late October. According to a Post and Courier review of Patriots Point e-mails, Burnette was out of the office and having trouble with his computer the week before his resignation. On Oct. 18, he asked the authority's information technology manager to help him access his hard drive remotely.

A few days later the board convened an emergency meeting in Hagerty's office. When confronted by the board over a host of "inappropriate" photos and messages, Burnette signed a resignation letter, Hagerty said. The board formally announced the change at a regular meeting the next day, Oct. 23.

"It was bing, bing — very quick," Hagerty said Thursday.

Burnette has not returned phone calls since his resignation.

A Florence native and University of South Carolina graduate, Burnette joined

Patriots Point as director of maintenance and engineering in 1998 after 23 years in the Navy. He was named interim director of the $17.3 million state authority in 2000 and a few months later was chosen from 95 applicants to fill the top position permanently. Burnette was being paid just over $84,000 a year and managed a chunk of waterfront property, 75 full-time employees and a floating museum of military vessels and aircraft.

The Patriots Point board tapped Royce Breland, the authority's chief financial officer, as interim executive director. And in recent weeks, directors have steamed ahead on filling Burnette's position, searching for a candidate with experience in the private sector. They hope to pick a new executive director and possibly a deputy executive director by June.

In November the state Budget and Control Board set the salary range for the top Patriots Point position between $80,138 and $124,229 annually, 6.8 percent higher on average than during the past few years.

"We've got a lot of good, talented people looking at it, and we want some more," Hagerty said. None of the applications to date have come from Patriots Point staff.