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What's next at clerk's office?

Interim clerk may be appointed in wake of arrests

The Bulloch County Clerk of Courts office will continue to operate while county officials seek a solution to the gap left after three current employees were indicted Monday on theft by conversion and other charges.
Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Teresa Tucker and former clerk Sherri Akins, who worked part-time in the office after her retirement from the elected position, were charged Monday with felony theft by conversion and violation of oath of office after a nearly three-year probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Three others — a current deputy clerk and two former deputy clerks — also were charged.
Deputy clerk Letha Deloach was charged with felony theft by conversion and violation of oath of office. Former deputy clerk Amanda Smith was charged with violation of oath of office and public record fraud. Tucker
confirmed Wednesday that Smith resigned from her position June 13. Former deputy clerk Marion Williams was charged with violation of oath of office, public records fraud and felony theft by conversion.
Williams was terminated Dec. 19, 2011, for violating rules outlined in the Bulloch County employee handbook regarding drug use, According to a “progressive corrective action” form provided to the Statesboro Herald by Bulloch County staff attorney Jeff Akins in response to an open records request, Williams submitted to a drug test after “reasonable suspicion (she was) impaired at work.” Statements in the form also said Williams admitted marijuana use several times while in the presence of county employees and a drug lab technician, but the form did not state the results of testing.
All but Williams were booked on the charges Wednesday. Williams, whose husband returned messages left on her cellphone Wednesday saying they were out of town, is expected to turn herself in today, GBI Special Agent-in-Charge Catherine Sapp said Thursday.
Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch and county staff attorney Jeff Akins met with employees of the Clerk of Courts offices Thursday to discuss continued operation of the office.
An interim clerk will likely be named, as conditions of Tucker’s bond was that she not return to the office until the case is resolved, Akins said.
“It is a complicated process, and we’re working to sort it all out,” Couch said. “We’re trying to follow statutory law and, in the meantime, make sure of continuity of business operations.”
Gov. Nathan Deal will appoint a committee of the attorney general and two other county clerks of courts to help determine whether Tucker’s position will be suspended, Jeff Akins said. Akins added that he and Couch are still reviewing the procedure required in order to appoint an interim clerk if Deal suspends Tucker’s office.
While it is unclear who will make the appointment, it will not be the Bulloch County Commission, Couch said.
“We’re trying to figure out the complications of this issue,” he said. “These kinds of things don’t happen every day.”
Allegations that led to the five suspects being charged revolved around financial records pertaining to fines and fees from traffic ticket collections. The Bulloch County Clerk of Courts’ office handles millions of dollars in fees, fines and payments annually. The office also handles civil suits, files adoption records, liens, real estate deeds, criminal felony and misdemeanor records, juvenile court records, notary public records and UCCs (loans secured with farm equipment, boats or other non-fixed collateral).
The office handles military discharges, passports, warrants for arrests, and tickets as well, from the Georgia State Patrol, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Southern University Police and state departments of Natural Resources and Transportation.
The case is being handled by the Eastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office because the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office has recused itself from the case. Eastern Circuit Judicial Circuit District Attorney Meg Heap was assigned to the case.
Sapp said the investigation is ongoing.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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