Hollywood mayor: Files missing

Edwards (left) Heyward (center) Schuster (right)

Deputies to question town staff

HOLLYWOOD — The new mayor says the transition between her team and the town's former boss didn't go smoothly.

Now this small town with a history of controversy has another problem, and this time the Charleston County Sheriff's Office has been called in to investigate.

Mayor Jackie Heyward filed a report Monday, her first day in office, about the missing planning and zoning files and computer hard drive.

Heyward and her staff were cleaning and preparing Town Hall offices when they noticed the planning and zoning office looked bare, she said. When they opened the two-drawer filing cabinet, "It was all gone, emptied," she said. "And the CPU that was sitting next to the desk."

Heyward is concerned the missing files could cause problems, including lawsuits related to land use and annexation.

Even before the files disappeared, the transition between old and new town administration wasn't going well, she said.

At the final council meeting led by then-mayor Gerald Schuster, Heyward, who was then mayor pro tem, said she wasn't receiving the support she was hoping for from Schuster and other administrators.

"The transition about to take place has been full of challenges," she said at the June 25 meeting, adding that Schuster had refused to meet with her.

After the meeting, Schuster said, "That's her opinion."

Schuster's last day in Town Hall was Saturday, and he said he didn't notice if the files and hard drive were missing.

Associate Planner Kenneth Edwards, who used the office in question, met briefly with Heyward at her request but didn't give her a report of planning and zoning issues as she had asked, she said.

His last day of employment was Saturday; Heyward and a search committee soon will search for his replacement.

Edwards told the mayor's assistant he took only personal files and property from the office, the police report, said. Edwards couldn't be reached for comment.

Detectives will interview Edwards, Heyward and other town staff, said Capt. John Clark, a sheriff's office spokesman. "It very well may be a misunderstanding," he said. "If there was a crime committed, then we're going to act appropriately."

Trouble between outgoing and incoming administrations is nothing new in the town of about 4,300 residents. After Schuster took office in 2003, Herbert Gadson, his predecessor, made veiled threats to Schuster, showed up at Town Hall claiming he was still mayor and demanded staff continue to report to him.

Heyward said she plans to establish administration transition guidelines.

Reach Kristen Hankla at 937-5548 or khankla@postandcourier.com.