Charges dropped against suspended Atlantic Beach Mayor

Suspended Atlantic Beach Mayor Retha Pierce.

Now that a charge of leaving the scene of an accident has been dropped against Retha Pierce, an Atlantic Beach councilwoman says Pierce is once again the town's mayor.

15th Circuit Solicitor Gregg Hembree says he dropped the charge because he didn't want to spend more tax money to pursue it. He said the only reason there's a real interest in this case is because of who Pierce is and he wants to treat Pierce like any other defendant.

Pierce was suspended in October 2009 by then-Governor Mark Sanford after she was indicted on that charge in April 2009. Police say Pierce was pulling across three lanes of traffic, sideswiped a car, and then left. Pierce says the other car left.

Governor Haley's office said since the solicitor dropped the charge, the suspension against her is lifted, which means Pierce is once again Atlantic Beach Mayor.

"She's the mayor," says Atlantic Beach Councilwoman Carolyn Cole. "There is nothing stopping her from coming to the next town meeting and presiding as the Mayor of Atlantic Beach."

Pierce has had three other run-ins with the law. Two of the cases were dropped. She was found guilty of resisting arrest in a December 25, 2007 arrest. She was sentenced to one year, which was suspended to 18 months probation. "Certainly the most serious charge was resisting arrest. Once she was convicted of that, it was the maximum sentence. If we took her in on that case, she would not get an additional bit of punishment. It would run concurrent to what she is serving," Solicitor Hembree said.

NewsChannel 15 will talk with Ms. Pierce's attorney this afternoon. We will keep you updated with this story.