Federal agents have taken over an investigation regarding suspicious financial issues in the small town of Rocky Ford in Screven County.
In March 2013, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched a query regarding the town's financial practices, including allegations of mishandled money and unpaid fees to the state.
Statesboro GBI Special Agent-in-Charge Cathy Sapp confirmed Monday that the investigation has been turned over to the FBI, but she did not say why.
Statesboro FBI agents declined to comment on the matter, citing policy to not discuss open cases.
In April 2013, Jimmy Hankinson, who was then Rocky Ford's mayor, said the investigation involves state add-on fees for tickets issued that have not been paid since 2003. An election since then resulted in a new mayor, Barry Durden, current Rocky Ford Town Clerk Teresa Mock said.
In late April 2013, Hankinson denied rumors that Beth Smith, who was the town clerk at the time, was no longer in office, stating she has been absent for health reasons and was expected to return. However, the town fired Smith soon afterward.
In a letter dated May 7, 2013, addressed to Smith, Hankinson announced Smith's termination after a vote at the council meeting the previous day.
"It is my duty to inform you that the Rocky Ford Town Council voted ... to terminate your employment effective as of that date," the letter reads. "While the town council has the right to remove you at any time for any reason or no reason at all as an ‘at will' employee, I will tell you that the Council has lost confidence in your ability to properly carry out your duties as city clerk and clerk of the municipal court in part due to your inaccurate reporting to the town council of the town's financial condition."
Smith assisted Rocky Ford Police Chief Pat Kile in keeping financial records for the police department, Hankinson said. Kile also assumed the duty of acting as police department clerk.
Kile remains the town's police chief, but no other officers are currently employed, Mock said Monday. Kile works varied hours and the town hall is open only from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, she said.
No arrests have been made and the investigation has been turned over to the FBI, Sapp said.
Anyone with information about the matter is asked to contact the Statesboro FBI at (912) 764-6311.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.