Cobb County Superior Court clerk candidates to debate in forum

Incumbent Clerk Connie Taylor’s controversies during first term prompted several challengers
File Photo: Downtown Marietta, including the Cobb County Superior Court, as seen from above. (courtesy of Cobb County)

File Photo: Downtown Marietta, including the Cobb County Superior Court, as seen from above. (courtesy of Cobb County)

Candidates for the Cobb County superior court clerk will participate in a forum Thursday night ahead of the May primary election.

Incumbent candidate Connie Taylor’s first term has been fraught with controversy, and she now faces several Democratic primary challengers, along with a Republican candidate that will face the primary winner in the November election.

The three Democrats running include Brunessa Drayton, who once worked in Cupid’s office and for U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff’s office; Carole Melton, who works as a bailiff in Cobb County courts; and Nick Simpson, who also ran for the office in 2020 and used to work as chief operating officer in the superior court clerk’s office. Deborah Dance, former Cobb County attorney, is running as a Republican.

Taylor first came under scrutiny in 2022 after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation reported she had taken home $425,000 in passport fees as personal income during her first term in office. Under state law, clerks are allowed to claim passport processing fees as income, but Taylor had also taken funds that were paid to cover expedited shipping costs for passport applications.

After the report, Taylor agreed to pay the county $84,000 from expedited shipping fees that she told commissioners had been taken “in error.” She then withdrew her memo in the middle of the board of commissioners meeting before the board could approve it when a letter from a whistleblower who worked in the clerk’s office came to light.

The whistleblower employee alleged Taylor ordered her to delete records involving the passport fees rather than fulfill an AJC request under the Georgia Open Records Act.

As of now, Taylor has not yet returned the $84,000 she said was taken in error. The matter has not yet been brought before the board, said county spokesman Ross Cavitt.

Taylor did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into her office, which was referred to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr for prosecutorial review in March, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said via email.

In 2023, Taylor faced renewed scrutiny after a Cobb County judge posted on social media about the severe backlog at the clerk’s office that has caused frustration for attorneys and judges alike. Documents for cases in the superior court clerk’s web portal were nearly three months behind, causing case delays, the Marietta Daily Journal first reported.

The candidate forum will take place Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at Zion Baptist Church at 165 Lemon Street in Marietta. It will also be live streamed.