High-ranking Charleston County Sheriff’s Office official fired

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 11:01 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 7:29 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In a major shakeup at the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office this month, the agency’s termination of its former chief deputy Joyce Smith last Friday was “effective immediately.”

Sheriff Kristen Graziano sent a memorandum letter to Smith on Friday that explained her termination was due to her defaulted student loans and failure to follow up on promises to bring them back into good standing.

According to state law, a person cannot be employed by state agencies if they have “willfully defaulted” on certain student loans. The agency also has its own employment standards of financial responsibility that Smith also failed to meet, as mentioned in the termination document.

In Dec. 2020, Graziano wrote, she learned of Smith’s loan situation after offering her one of two chief deputy positions but hired her anyway.

Smith reportedly told her new prospective boss it was due to a misunderstanding of the CARES Act Federal Student Loan protections and was taking steps to come into compliance.

The letter said, “I approved your hiring on the basis that accepting your representations as true, your default was not willful.”

Graziano also asked for proof of these measures as they became available. Smith signed an affidavit under oath before she began her employment with the county, acknowledging that she could lose her job if she did not remedy the issue.

In Jan. 2022, another credit report on Smith showed that the loans had gone to “collections status.”

Graziano writes she gave Smith “one last opportunity” in a meeting on Jan. 17, 2022, instead of firing her.

About a week later on Jan. 25, Smith went on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. That was her status until her termination on Friday.

Then another credit report on March 17 showed no “corrective actions” had been taken.

The letter ends with Graziano writing: “I am sorry that it has come to this, but you have left me no other reasonable alternative.”

In Jan. 2021, Smith resigned from the North Charleston Police Department after nearly 25 years.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Knapp says the department does not provide comments on personnel matters.

Smith’s attorney also declined to comment.

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