UNION — Incumbent Clerk of Court Freddie Gault answered questions about jury duty, saving money and accountability during a debate held earlier this week at USC Union and moderated by Dr. Allan Charles. The event was sponsored by USC Union and WBCU.
One of the first questions Gault was asked centered around jury duty and the fact that it can sometimes seem inconvenient to those serving on that particular day. Gault stressed the importance of jury service, pointing out that there are two ways for people to serve their country — by serving in the military or on a jury.
“So many times, jurors are sitting in the courtroom for an hour or an hour and a half, and they don’t see the judge, me, solicitors or attorneys,” Gault said, explaining that they are often in the judge’s chambers working out guilty pleas. “So many things happen behind closed doors, and we can’t come out and tell the jury because it may be biased and hurt the defendant’s chance at a fair trial. The jury pool doesn’t realize we’ve been back there working for an hour or hour and a half. There are somethings we are not allowed to tell the jury by law.”
Gault said he not only makes sure Union County runs a fair court system, but also a very conservative court, not wasting any money.
“If I can spend that hour and a half with the judge in the back, I will to try to save the court that money,” Gault said. “We can sometimes let that jury go early rather than coming back every single day.”
Gault also discussed some of the work he has done during his time as clerk of court, pointing out that he took the office from having zero accountability to three tiers of accountability. He hired former clerk of court June Miller, who works in the clerk’s office two days a week going over bank reconciliations and monthly reports to keep the office accountable. Gault said Miller is paid with federal funds, not funds from the county.
“She does not handle any other job,” Gault said. “She doesn’t take in money, wait on people or go to court. All she does is reconciliation of bank records. She goes through each record that comes in; then I go over them monthly.”
The third tier Gault added to the accountability system was Brad Valentine. Gault takes the monthly records to Valentine, who provides an extra set of eyes.
“He has nothing to do with my office,” Gault said. “He also looks over those records to make sure nobody in my office, including me, is mismanaging or stealing any funds.”
Gault said that problems from the past — such as a quarter million dollars being stolen from the child support office — would be prevented or at the very least, spotted much sooner with this new system.
“It’s the county’s money,” Gault said. “It’s not Freddie Gault’s money. It’s not my home account. It’s county money, and had this been in place before I took office — and I don’t want to talk about people because people make mistakes — but had this been in place three years ago, then the person doing wrong would have been caught in the first month, not 10 months time.”
One of the questions Gault answered from the floor was from Ann Stevens, who asked if there are local instances in which child support is paid to a male. Gault said there definitely are.
“I’m not a rich person, but I’ve supplied for my children as best I could,” he said. “Some of these children don’t have that. As long as I’m clerk of court, whether it’s the dad paying to the mom, or the mom paying to the dad, or the grandmama receiving, I’m going to make sure those kids receive their money.”
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.