Joe Huffman is no longer Horry County's top public safety official.
Huffman, who was the assistant county administrator over public safety, does not work for the county as of Monday afternoon, two county council members confirmed.
Councilman Danny Hardee, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said he expects to be briefed on the matter by county staff Tuesday morning.
Huffman could not immediately be reached for comment.
County officials did not elaborate on the reason for Huffman’s departure, but he leaves less than a week after Mississippi’s state auditor demanded that he pay that state thousands of dollars for improperly managing bond money when he worked for the city of Pascagoula, according to a news release from Mississippi Auditor Shad White.
Huffman came to Horry County in 2017 after serving as the city manager of Pascagoula, Mississippi for about five years.
Pascagoula entered bond agreements in 2014 and in 2017 totaling more than $27 million, according to the Mississippi auditor’s office.
That office said the bond proceeds should have been deposited into a separate account from the city’s general fund because the bond money was supposed to be for specific city projects, not regular operations.
By mixing the bond money in with the general fund, the city avoided a deficit and gave the impression of a budget surplus, according to the state auditor. The problem was discovered after a new administration was elected and asked for a forensic audit of the city’s finances. The state auditor was notified of the situation in August.
The auditor blamed Huffman and former city comptroller Robert Parker for the mistake.
“After receiving a complaint, audit investigators determined Parker and Huffman knowingly and improperly transferred bond proceeds into the City’s general fund account,” the state auditor’s news release said. “This practice caused the city to forego over $31,500 in interest revenue which would have accrued in the appropriate account. It also created the illusion of a budget surplus.”
Parker and Huffman’s financial decisions also prompted the district attorney there to present the case to a grand jury, which determined that no criminal wrongdoing had occurred.
“I am confident in their decision,” District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath said in a prepared statement. “The fact that the Grand Jury did not find any criminal conduct does not preclude the State Auditor from pursuing civil remedies based on their investigation.”
The Mississippi auditor demanded that Parker, the comptroller, pay $47,395.91. Huffman was told to pay $6,819.26. The amounts correspond to the forgone interest revenue during each man’s tenure at the city.
As assistant administrator over public safety in Horry County, Huffman was responsible for overseeing the county's emergency management, police, fire/EMS and E911 departments. He also served as a liaison to elected officials such as the coroner, sheriff and solicitor.
As of January, Huffman's salary was $135,000, according to county records.
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