Cobb Superior Court Clerk cancels vote on passport fee repayment amid scrutiny

Chairwoman may request audit of Clerk’s Office
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)

Cobb Superior Court Clerk Connie Taylor on Thursday night withdrew a measure to pay back $84,000 in passport shipping fees to the county government before it could be put to a vote amid rising scrutiny from the commissioners.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found she had personally pocketed $425,000 in passport fees during her two years in office under a Georgia law that allows superior court clerks who perform passport services to take the fees as personal income.

However, Taylor said the expedited shipping fees amounted to $84,000 and were taken “in error.”

“The system that we have, which is an obsolete system, has taken the fee amount with the mailing expedited fee and included those together, and those were actually given to me personally, which was an error,” Taylor said to the board at Wednesday’s morning work session.

She asked county officials to withdraw the agenda item because she needed more time to get answers to some of the board’s questions, said county spokesman Ross Cavitt. The commissioners did not request it be removed from the agenda, he said.

Cobb Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said the county may request an audit of the Superior Court Clerk’s Office to get a better sense of the process and “to ensure that we are not overcharging people.”

In the passport application process, the county charges a $35 processing fee, which the superior court clerk can legally receive as additional income. If applicants elect to pay for expedited shipping, the fee paid to the county is $24.70, along with a $60 fee paid to the U.S. State Department for faster processing.

Taylor told the board at the work session that she wanted to get the funds “back to you as soon as possible.”

“I don’t want to make it seem like we are holding onto something that has been due to you,” she said.

Taylor declined the AJC’s requests for comment in person and did not respond to requests via phone calls and emails.