Horry County’s top public safety official out of a job

Horry County’s top public safety official out of a job
Joe Huffman (Source: Horry County Government)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Horry County’s head of public safety is out of a job.

According to Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught, Monday was the last day of Joe Huffman’s employment with the county. Since May 2017, he’s worked as the assistant county administrator of public safety, according to information on the county’s website.

Huffman oversaw police, fire/EMS, emergency management and E911. He also served as the liaison with such elected officials as the coroner, sheriff, magistrates, the public defender, and the solicitor.

Vaught did not have specifics Monday night as to the reason for Huffman’s departure, but referenced it had something to do with his previous job.

Before coming to the Grand Strand, Huffman served as the city manager for Pascagoula, Miss., a position he undertook in 2011, according to the county.

On June 5, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White announced his office had issued Huffman and former city comptroller Robert Parker demand letters for exercising improper financial management of bond proceeds, according to a press release. The total amount of both demands is approximately $54,215.17 and includes all investigative costs and accrued interest.

In December 2014 and again in June 2017, the city of Pascagoula entered bond agreements totaling over $27 million, according to White. The bond proceeds should have been deposited into a bank account separate from the general fund account to ensure adherence to bond terms, which mandated the bond revenue be spent on infrastructure and other specific projects in the city.

After receiving a complaint, audit investigators determined both Huffman and Parker knowingly and improperly transferred bond proceeds into the city’s general fund account. The practice caused the city to forego over $31,500 in interest revenue which would have accrued in the appropriate account, the press release stated. It also created the illusion of a budget surplus.

“The taxpayers of Pascagoula should know that $14 million is not missing from their bank account, but millions in bond money was spent on general operations in 2014 and 2017,” said White in a statement.

The demand letter issued to Parker is worth $47,395.91, and the letter issued to Huffman is worth $6,819.26, according to the Mississippi auditor’s office. A grand jury determined neither Huffman or Parker did anything illegal.

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