The recent resignation of Joseph Huffman from senior staff at Horry County Government demonstrates the need for a new approach to leadership of the county staff.
Huffman, who was the county’s public safety director for two years, resigned after the Mississippi Auditor demanded he repay approximately $6,800 to the state of Mississippi for mismanaging bond money as city manager of Pascagoula.
The mismanagement of the money included depositing the bond proceeds into the city’s general fund in order to make the budget appear to have a surplus instead of the deficit it was actually running. The deposit into the general fund also cost the city interest earnings on the bond money.
According to sources in Horry County Government, Huffman went to interim administrator Steve Gosnell to say it was best if he (Huffman) resigned. Those sources said Gosnell responded that he would support Huffman if Huffman did not wish to resign.
Such an offer should never have been made by Gosnell. A man acting as the county public safety director had mismanaged funds in Pascagoula, Mississippi in order to deceive the council he worked for.
Is this really the type of person we want being the top public safety official in Horry County? I think not!
The problem goes deeper. According to the government sources, former administrator Chris Eldridge was aware of Huffman’s difficulties in Mississippi as early as last summer. According to sources, Eldridge blamed the entire problem on political differences with a new city administration rather than the actual mismanagement of city money.
Huffman was hired in May 2017, approximately two years after Eldridge received a substantial raise from county council partially on the condition that in addition to being administrator Eldridge would assume the duties of public safety director after the firing of Paul Whitten.
Two years later, Huffman, who reportedly knew Eldridge since they both served in public administration jobs in North Carolina, was hired at a salary of approximately $135,000 annually.