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Missing money probe expands
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Local authorities have expanded their investigation into money missing from the Dawson County Clerk of Court’s office and involved the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the matter.


Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle said Monday the probe has revealed additional funds are missing from the court.


He would not comment on the amount missing, but said the alleged thefts occurred over a period of about nine years.  


To date, a court employee and a former contract worker with the county have been charged with taking nearly $82,000 from office accounts.


Carlisle said in a statement that the new discrepancies in clerk of court accounts involved the collection of passport filing fees.


According to the statement, Georgia law allows a clerk of court to retain a portion of passport fees received as compensation above and beyond his or her regular salary paid by county taxpayers.


“Dawson County Sheriff investigators, with the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, have obtained sufficient evidence to conclude that the clerk of Superior Court of Dawson County was paid more than allowed in additional compensation during the same nine years,” Carlisle said in the statement.


Investigators met with Dawson County Clerk of Court Becky McCord and her attorney Monday afternoon to discuss the case, which the statement said remains active “as investigators continue to review the ... financial records.”


McCord, who is represented by Atlanta attorney J. Tom Morgan, has not been charged with any crime.


As of Tuesday afternoon, Morgan said his client was not ready to make a statement on the investigation.


Carlisle said he is troubled that additional taxpayer money is missing.


In his statement, he expressed confidence that “sheriff’s investigators will be able to identify the person or persons responsible for any abuse of taxpayer dollars.”


McCord is currently serving her fifth term as clerk of courts. She first took office in 1993 and ran unopposed in 2008.


Investigators began reviewing county and clerk of court financial records last month after learning two dozen checks had been written to a Dawsonville man on an escrow account set up by the clerk of court’s office to hold cash bonds.


The checks were written to a former contract worker with the court, 22-year-old Justin Disharoon, by court employee Donna Sheriff, authorities said.  


Sheriff, 42, of Dawsonville, and Disharoon were each arrested and charged with a single count of felony theft by taking.


Sheriff, who had worked for the clerk of courts office since 1994 and most recently served as chief deputy clerk directly under McCord, was fired Jan. 26, according to county employment records.


Elaine Garrett, a 15-year employee with the court, was sworn in as chief deputy clerk Feb. 3, according to officials.