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Probate Court moves forward
Ex-clerks plea resolves matter
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Six months have passed since a Dawson County probate clerk was arrested in connection with the theft of thousands of dollars from the court.


In that time, Probate Judge Jennifer Burt said, her office has weathered the difficult situation and is operating efficiently and effectively.


“We’ve been able to move forward, and I think everything is good because the girls are very conscious about everything that’s going on,” she said.


Burt said the arrest of longtime employee Julie Honea last year was an eye-opener.


Honea, who had been clerk of probate court since March 1999, was fired in October after she was caught taking cash paid to settle traffic violations.


The 50-year-old Dawson County woman pleaded guilty to the felony theft by taking charge March 17.


With a negotiated plea, Honea was sentenced to 120 days in jail. The sentence was reduced to 60 days upon paying the full restitution of $6,437 to the court. 


Honea, who was sentenced under first offenders treatment, was also ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and perform 240 hours of community service.


In addition, she cannot work in a position or with an agency in which she would handle cash.


Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver said the last four years of probation can be suspended upon payment of all fees and restitution.


Honea has until 10 a.m. Thursday to report to the Dawson County Detention Center to begin her sentence, which could be served on work release if approved by the sheriff.


Burt said she made a few procedural changes in probate court after Honea’s termination.


“Everybody in the office, when we do our daily balancing, does it together,” Burt said.


She said Honea was able to adjust deposit balance totals “after the fact.”


According to authorities, Honea had been taking cash deposits for about two years.


Burt said the thefts began sporadically with Honea taking small amounts and grew larger in the two months prior to Burt and her staff finding the discrepancies during a monthly internal audit.


Tammy Chester, who has worked in probate court for about 10 years, now serves as chief probate court clerk.