An employee of the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Office was arrested Tuesday on theft and other charges after evidence showed she took more than $3,000 in citation money, according to the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office.
Karen Patterson, 45, of Shane Road, is charged with felony theft by taking, computer forgery, and violation of oath of public office.
The arrest comes about a year after a lengthy Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe resulted in several arrests of clerk's office employees, including the clerk at the time.
Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Heather Banks McNeal, who has been in office since being elected to the vacated position in May, contacted the sheriff's office June 24 to report a discrepancy, Sheriff Lynn Anderson said in a news release issued Wednesday.
"McNeal indicated to investigators that citation monies handled by Karen Patterson ... were not deposited as they should have been according to policy and that computerized records had been altered to conceal the thefts," he said.
McNeal fired Patterson June 25.
"Karen Patterson was terminated ... for mismanagement of government funds," McNeal said. "This matter is currently under investigation by the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office. The checks and safeguards that are in place in the clerk's office are proving to be effective so that any deviations from office procedures are detected."
Anderson said a thorough internal audit conducted by McNeal revealed "approximately 19 instances of theft occurred over an approximately three-month period and involved over $3,000 of citation money."
Sheriff's Investigator Jason Long served arrest warrants on Patterson Tuesday, and she posted a $10,000 bond before being released from the Bulloch County Jail.
Patterson's arrest follows a shakeup of the clerk's office in 2013 after a three-year GBI investigation led to the arrest of former Clerk of Courts Teresa Tucker and former deputy clerks Sherri Akins, Leatha Deloach, Marion Puckett Williams and Amanda Kay Smith.
In December, Akins, who served as clerk of court for more than 40 years before resigning and working in the clerk's office on a part-time basis, pleaded no contest to malfeasance in office, a misdemeanor, while charges of felony theft by conversion were dropped.
Tucker, who had worked in the clerk's office for more than 30 years and had served as the clerk of courts since 2008, pleaded guilty in December to two felony counts of violation of public office and resigned from office. Felony theft by conversion charges were dropped.
Deloach, Smith and Williams each pleaded guilty to theft by conversion in September.
"The entire clerk's office was completely cooperative with the efforts of investigators involved in the case," Anderson said.
Anyone with further information should contact Long at (912) 764-1747 or submit an anonymous tip to email@example.com.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.