THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Murrells Inlet magistrate: The Joliff files
By Jackie R. Broach
Make no mistake: Dave Jolliff wants to be the next magistrate in Murrells Inlet. “But at this point I’d really rather have my name cleared,” he said this week.
Jolliff, 36, is state Sen. Ray Cleary’s nominee for the magistrate job, but he’s been under attack since his candidacy was announced late last year. His character has been maligned, he said, and many aren’t even willing to give him a chance to show them he’s not what they’ve heard.
“I’ve reached out to these people and they won’t even meet me,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been portrayed as a monster. I’m just a normal guy.”
Jolliff’s attorney, David DuRant, said they’re going to fight back against the slurs on Jolliff’s reputation.
“As much as we can, we’re going to get the truth out about what happened,” DuRant said. That means telling Jolliff’s side of the story, but also explaining why the attacks were made.
DuRant blames Tom Swatzel, a Murrells Inlet resident who has been outspoken about his opinion that Jolliff is a bad pick for magistrate.
“Tom Swatzel’s agenda is very clear,” DuRant said. “He didn’t like the fact that his man didn’t get picked, so he’s doing all this behind the scenes, doing whatever he can to get my client not to be appointed to this position. It’s nothing but dirty pool and dirty politics.”
Swatzel said he’s just interested in what’s right for his community.
“Like most people in Murrells Inlet, I just want the best person for the magistrate’s job and believe in an open and fair process for determining a nominee,” he said.
“I’ve gone out and asked for the public records concerning Dave Jolliff’s work record with Horry County — records that Sen. Cleary should have asked for long ago. If Jolliff, his attorney and Sen. Cleary are angry about it, then apparently they did not want the information to see the light of day.”
Swatzel circulated a letter earlier this month that he received from Horry County through a Freedom of Information Act request. The 2006 letter, from Lt. Larry Muncey, the former head of the Horry County Police narcotics division, criticized Jolliff’s behavior and demeanor, and recommended reassigning him after claims that he urinated on a citizen’s car outside a bar and left the scene after wrecking his car while intoxicated.
The documents show claims that Jolliff wrecked his car while intoxicated and left the scene are untrue, but say he admitted to urinating on a citizen’s car in 2006. Jolliff also received a five-day suspension in 1998 after he drove a marked county police vehicle to a bar while attending the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia. He left the car there overnight, unattended and unsecured with firearms inside, another document states.
Jolliff said it wasn’t a bar, but a restaurant that served alcohol, and he and another cadet had a pitcher of beer with dinner. They were trying to do “the responsible thing,” by not driving afterward.
“I’ve grown up considerably” since then, he said.
As for the 2006 incident, Jolliff said he urinated in a parking lot, but not on a car. He received a one-day suspension for his actions.
A response to Muncey’s letter from Capt. Scott Rutherford, in which he defends Jolliff, was also included with the documents.
DuRant questions why the additional documents weren’t produced earlier.
“I couldn’t get the county to give me an answer,” DuRant said. “In my opinion, something is not right there.”
Even though Jolliff has been exonerated from some of the claims, the damage has been done.
“All that other crap that was printed as fact didn’t happen, but once the accusation is made and it’s out there, people are going to take it as fact whether it’s true or not,” DuRant said.
Jolliff didn’t know any of the documents existed until they were released, DuRant said. While the documents were “on a computer somewhere” in Horry County’s system, none of them are in Jolliff’s personnel file.
The disciplinary report from 2006 isn’t even signed, he points out.
No commendations were released by Horry County, but Jolliff was named Employee of the Month in May 2000 while working as a uniformed patrolman for the Horry County Police Department. That was in response to his actions on the job that month, when he was called to a home off Highway 544.
A man who was “down on his luck” and suicidal had locked himself in his home and was about to stab himself in the throat with a steak knife, Jolliff said.
Jolliff pried open the back door, “jumped on him and wrestled the knife away from him,” he recalled.
Jolliff also has an extensive list of training and certifications from agencies including the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. His training ranges from drug analysis and narcotics undercover techniques to dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
In 2006, Jolliff and a partner were selected for an organized crime drug enforcement task force case dealing in black tar heroin. The drug has “inundated the Grand Strand” from Georgetown to Wilmington, N.C., he said. He was on the case for several months and received a commendation from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for his work.
Most recently, Jolliff received a plaque this month from the DEA and Department of Justice for “outstanding contributions to federal drug law enforcement” as a DEA task force officer.
He said one of his proudest moments on the job came when one of his investigations resulted in a drug dealer confessing to shooting and killing a man over a botched drug robbery. The man, who had been acquitted in Horry County, received a 30-year sentence.
That was the case for Bill Chandler, president of Preserve Murrells Inlet, until the second round of documents were released. They led him to refuse a meeting with Jolliff this week.
“The additional information made me convinced I could not have a good faith meeting with him. I didn’t want to give him the impression he could change my mind,” Chandler said.
Chandler previously agreed to the meeting at Cleary’s request. But at this point, Chandler said, he can’t imagine anything would change his opinion that Jolliff is a poor choice for magistrate.
He said he thinks he could have forgiven the 1998 incident, but “having two incidents there eight years apart tells me he hasn’t changed. I would have thought eight years would have been enough time for him to mature and not do something like that again.”
Chandler co-authored a letter to Cleary last week asking him to withdraw Jolliff as a nominee. It was also signed by Georgetown County Sheriff Lane Cribb, County Council Members Jerry Oakley and Bob Anderson and former Council Member Glen O’Connell.
Jolliff said Swatzel and Oakley have also refused to meet with him.
“We’re dealing with people with closed minds,” DuRant said.
Bill Hills of Murrells Inlet, vice chairman of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club, said he thinks it’s “shameful that some in Murrells Inlet have chosen to make public statements concerning [Jolliff’s] character and trustworthiness” without having met him and after refusing to hear his side of the story.
Hills said he believes the magistrate’s job shouldn’t be filled by someone from the law enforcement community. “Coming from that environment, it’s very difficult to not be prejudiced,” he explained.
But since Jolliff has been picked, pending an investigation from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, Hills supports him.
“I met Dave Jolliff only recently and have taken the opportunity to ask him hard and pointed questions concerning each allegation,” Hills said.
He points out that Jolliff has married and had a child since 2006 and is working on master’s degree in theology.
“My opinion is that this young man has grown quite a bit in the past years and deserves the opportunity that has been afforded him by Sen. Cleary — pending the results of the investigation,” Hills said.
DuRant said he doesn’t know what the outcome will be in Jolliff’s situation, but Jolliff is grateful Cleary was “generous enough to make a full investigation before he makes his decision.”