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Ex-clerk pleads guilty

Judge adds time to McCord’s term

POSTED: October 12, 2011 4:00 a.m.

The state has resolved its criminal case against Dawson County's former clerk of courts, who pleaded guilty Friday to theft by taking and violation of oath of offices charges.

In exchange for her negotiated plea, 62-year-old Becky McCord received a 10-year sentence, with four years to be served in custody and the remaining on probation.

The sentence runs concurrent with the 24-month term McCord received last month on tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud charges in federal court in Gainesville. She pleaded guilty to those charges in June.

Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin rejected a prior plea agreement that would have run concurrent with McCord's federal prison time.

The rejected agreement, which had been negotiated and approved by both the state and McCord's attorneys, did not require additional jail time on the state charges.

"My decision is that this is more serious [than the federal case] and I think you should serve more time," Gosselin said.

McCord was charged with funneling more than $140,000 from the clerk's office, where she had served for more than 17 years. She was arrested in February 2010 and resigned the next month.

Northeastern Judicial District Attorney Lee Darragh said he is pleased the case has been resolved, so Dawson County residents "can put it behind them."

As part of the plea, Darragh also agreed to dismiss the state's tax evasion charges against McCord and her husband regarding the couple knowingly signing their 2009 tax return without reporting the $140,000.

Darragh said he continuously conferred with Dawson County Commission Chairman Mike Berg through the process. The county has received insurance payments that cover the theft.

"As spokesman for the county, [Berg] has agreed to accept the $15,000 in restitution prior to her entering federal incarceration," Darragh said.

The county will be issued a quit claim deed on a piece of property that is pending sale to cover the restitution until the money is repaid.

The $15,000, which covers the county's insurance deductible, must be paid prior to McCord reporting for her federal sentence on Oct. 17.

"In the event she does not make the $15,000 in restitution ... then the sentence proposed today would be null and void and we'd be starting over," Darragh said.

According to authorities, McCord, as clerk of courts, was entitled to nearly $60,000 of the fees paid to her office for issuing passports between 2004-09.

During that same time period, however, investigators say McCord wrote checks to herself on a civil account that totaled more than $211,000.

While she pleaded guilty to the charges, McCord said many factors contributed to the troubles she's faced.

"My office was pretty out of control, not everybody, but there were a couple that were out of control," McCord said. "I wasn't the bookkeeper and I didn't control the whole situation. I just didn't pay close attention."

Dawson authorities began investigating McCord after discovering Donna Sheriff, her chief deputy clerk, had written two dozen checks to a former contract worker on a court's account.

Both Sheriff and the contract worker, Justin Disharoon, pleaded guilty to theft charges in 2010. Their sentencing was delayed until McCord's was settled.

"We hope to reach a resolution in the next few months," Darragh said.

 

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