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Clerk of Courts resigns from office
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In what local officials say was an unexpected turn of events, Dawson County's clerk of court resigned Thursday.

Becky McCord, who is accused of taking more than $140,000 from a county account for passport fees, announced her decision in a statement released through her attorney, Jeffery Talley.

"In order to allow my office to run efficiently, and serve the public, I have decided to retire as clerk of court and I resign my position effective immediately," McCord wrote.

In the letter, McCord acknowledged that Dawson County residents "may have lost confidence" in her and her abilities "as clerk of court" because of the allegations.

McCord, who has served as clerk of courts since 1993, was arrested Feb. 11 on a single count of felony theft by taking.

"There is no doubt that the efficiency of the clerk's office has been disrupted and the citizens of Dawson County and the employees of the clerk's office deserve better," McCord wrote.

"I have been a public servant for in excess of 24 years and I love my county and its citizens. I want the best for both."

The resignation was addressed to Mike Berg, chairman of the Dawson County commission.

Berg said McCord, as an elected official, possibly should have addressed the resignation to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"I'm waiting to hear from the governor's office right now," he said.

Included with the letter, McCord attempts to rescind her appointment of Elaine Garrett as chief deputy, an action she said elected officials had asked her to take.

McCord appointed Garrett to the post earlier this year after firing former chief deputy Donna Sheriff, who was also arrested on theft charges.

Probate Judge Jennifer Burt, who would be tasked with appointing a replacement for the clerk of court, said she did not know whether Garrett would remain in that position.

"By law, she would move into that position as chief deputy clerk," Burt said.

Burt said she has been in talks with Dawson County Attorney Joey Homans about the resignation and retirement.

Since she is retiring from the office, McCord would be eligible for county benefits, though Homans was not sure when her eligibility would begin.

Homans has previously said McCord would not eligible for her state clerk of courts benefits if convicted of the felony offense.

According to the arrest warrant, McCord wrote thousands of dollars in checks to herself over several years from a passport account set up through the clerk of courts office.

Authorities say she was entitled to $77,427 of fees paid to her office for issuing passports between 2004-09, although checks she wrote on the account total more than $200,000.

The probe into the missing funds expanded to include McCord after authorities learned Sheriff had written two dozen checks to a former contract worker on an escrow account the local clerks’ office used to hold cash bonds.

The initial investigation led authorities to review an account the clerk of courts office set up with United Community Bank for fees paid to obtain passports.  

In addition, the Internal Revenue Service has opened a case on McCord.

Dawson County Sheriff’s Maj. John Cagle said investigators met recently with IRS agents to share information, including McCord’s bank records.

It is not clear if McCord claimed the additional funds on her federal taxes.