Murrells Inlet's Cleary pays for look into judge candidate's past

A background investigation on a Murrells Inlet magistrate candidate, paid for by S.C. Sen. Ray Cleary, states that Dave Jolliff would make "an excellent magistrate."

S.C. Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, who nominated Jolliff for the magistrate post, hired Steve Smith, a private investigator with Palmetto Investigative and Consulting Services Inc., to research Jolliff's background after reports were released showing he had been disciplined when he worked for the Horry County Police Department.

Smith's report said that on a couple of occasions those he talked to about Jolliff said they had never heard anything negative about him until the reports surfaced after he became a candidate for magistrate judge.

Smith said that "if the supervisors at Horry County Police thought David was not a good worker, not an honorable person, etc., he should never have been put into the narcotics unit."

Cleary said he did not want to comment on the report until he had a chance to further review it and speak to the governor's office about Jolliff's appointment.

But in a cover letter to the report, Cleary said "anyone who knew Mr. Jolliff held him in high regard."

The most recent allegation Smith investigated is based on an Oct. 2006 incident in which Jolliff was accused of being "intoxicated to the point of urinating on a very expensive automobile" at a local bar and wrecking his own vehicle after leaving that bar.

The disciplinary report from Nov. 6, 2006 says he was "suspended from one day of work without pay, mandated to enroll in the Employee Assistance Program for counseling, and temporarily suspended... from any association, training or activation as it pertains to the HCPD's Bomb Squad."

In Smith's report on the incident he said he spoke to the owner of the vehicle that was allegedly urinated on and "he said he was not aware of anybody doing anything like that to his car."

Another incident that Smith investigated was based on a letter dated August of 1998 sent to Jolliff that indicates that he was suspended for five days.

The letter says that while Jolliff was at the Criminal Justice Academy for training he used a marked county vehicle to go to a local bar and left it overnight with unsecured firearms in that vehicle. It says that Jolliff was suspended from Aug. 17, 1998 to Aug. 21, 1998 as a result. .

Smith says in his report that "had the infraction been seen as anything more than a youthful misstep the department had the option to terminate him."

Smith said that had these incidents or anything about Jolliff's character or work been under question he would not have been advanced.

Smith said that most people he spoke to believed that disciplinary reports "were destroyed either after one year or upon the next job performance evaluation [not kept for 12 years]."

Smith says that he was paid $1,500 to furnish the report and was given instructions to "conduct an impartial, unbiased, honest, and fair background."

Jolliff said he feels "vindicated" by Smith's report.

"It adds an outside source that has no dog in the fight," he said.

Jolliff said it pointed out some things about his record that he wanted people to know.

"I want people to think and ask 'if he was a bad employee why was he there for 13 years?'," he said.