Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction. Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Teresa Tucker pleaded guilty to two felony counts of violation of oath by public officer. Because of a reporter's mistake, front-page articles Tuesday and Wednesday incorrectly stated that she pleaded to misdemeanors. A corrected article on the plea agreement appears in Friday's print edition. The Statesboro Herald regrets the errors.
Bulloch County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to accept Teresa Tucker's resignation as the county's clerk of courts.
The resignation follows Tucker's plea Monday in Bulloch County Superior Court. Originally charged with theft by conversion and violation of public office following a three-year investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, she pleaded guilty to two felony counts of violation of oath ofpublic officer, and the other charges were dropped.
Bulloch County Superior Court Judge William Woodrum Jr. sentenced Tucker to 10 years probation, $6,000 restitution and a $1,000 fine.
The agreement between Tucker and the commissioners states she will resign her elected position effective Dec. 31 and will tender a letter to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal regarding her resignation, and provide commissioners with a copy.
The agreement also states that commissioners will "release Tucker from any and all civil liability arising from or in any way connected with her services" as county clerk of courts.
According to the agreement, Tucker is resigning voluntarily, although because she pleaded under first-time offender status, the plea did not disqualify her for office. She will not return to work at the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts office.
Bulloch County staff attorney Jeff Akins told commissioners the elected position will be included in a nonpartisan special election that will coincide with the general primary in May or July 2014.
Whoever wins the special election will serve the rest of Tucker's unexpired term, which runs through Dec. 31, 2016, with the next regular election in November 2016.
Former Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Charles Sikes has served as the interim clerk of courts since shortly after Tucker and four other current and former clerk of courts employees were indicted in July.
The investigation into alleged misuse of funds and improper recording of paid traffic fines began almost three years ago after citizen complaints were filed regarding driver's licenses being suspended for nonpayment although tickets were paid.
Greg McConnell, the chief assistant district attorney for the Eastern Judicial Circuit, based in Savannah, prosecuted the case after the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit DA's Office recused itself, citing a close working relationship with the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts office.
He told the court Tucker and four others — Sherri Akins, former clerk of courts who was serving as a deputy clerk after retiring; deputy clerk Leatha Deloach and former deputy clerks Marion Puckett Williams and Amanda Kay Smith — either were involved in or allowed others to cash checks from or borrow money from an "overage bag" containing money collected, but unaccounted for regarding where it belonged.
Also, traffic fines were reportedly collected but never recorded, McConnell said. Handwritten receipts and other evidence of such led to the investigation and subsequent indictments.
In a plea bargain similar to Tucker's, Akins pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest, to a misdemeanor charge of malfeasance in office. Original charges of felony theft by conversion and violation of oath by public officer were dropped.
Woodrum sentenced Akins to a year's probation and restitution of $6,000.
Deloach, Williams and Smith each pleaded guilty Sept. 10 to theft by conversion. Under plea deals between McConnell and the defendants' attorneys that were similar to those regarding Akins and Tucker, they were each sentenced to 10 years probation and must pay $6,000 restitution to Bulloch County.
In a statement released Monday during court, Tucker said: "I have never committed any theft, never enriched myself from public service or taken anything of value that did not belong to me while working in the office of the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts." However, she admitted having "... made mistakes in the management of the office."
Holli Deal Bragg maybe reached at (912) 489-9414.