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Election 2012: Former county elections director fired as precinct manager

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Patricia Byrd is out as clerk at Pawleys Island Precinct 5, the polling place at Waccamaw High School.

Chairman Dean Smith told Byrd that she was being removed last week during a meeting of the Georgetown County Board of Elections and Registration in Georgetown.

In an interview Tuesday, Byrd said the move caught her by surprise, and she did not intend to leave quietly. Discussions about personnel are usually done in executive session, she added.

Byrd, former director of the county Election Commission, had just told members of the board that she didn’t need any more help at Precinct 5 on election day when Smith told her she was no longer going to be the clerk.

“I didn’t want to do this in public,” Smith said. “When I was commissioner at Pawleys Island, I had a problem with your leadership. We discussed it, and a decision was made to put a new clerk in.”

Byrd said, “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Smith responded, “Another clerk would be beneficial to that location.”

Smith said that Byrd had experienced trouble with running her voting machines’ zero tape, a tape that is printed out when a voting machine is first set up at a polling place, and had sent damaged materials back to the Board of Voter Registration from her precinct after voting was completed.

Byrd said she always had help at the polls from people who were experienced with computers and had never knowingly returned damaged or torn election materials.

Smith said Donna Mahn, the Elections and Voter Registration director, had approved the change, and he defended her decision to replace the Pawleys Island clerk.

Smith told Byrd that she could continue to work at Precinct 5, but not as clerk. He said John Womack, who has shared the clerk’s position at Pawleys Island’s 4th Precinct with Jay Sherman, will be the clerk at Pawleys Island 5.

“He will make the decisions as to who does what,” Smith said.

Board member Richard Butts saw Byrd’s removal as setting a precedent, and he wanted it clarified that he now has the right to name the clerks in the five precincts he oversees.

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