GBI investigating Cobb Superior Court clerk after whistleblower complaint

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)

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into Cobb County Superior Court Clerk Connie Taylor’s office after a whistleblower alleged the clerk ordered her to delete records related to passport fees kept as personal income.

A press release from the GBI says a superior court judge requested the investigation on Nov. 16.

“The GBI is investigating,” the release says.

In the whistleblower complaint dated Nov. 17 and sent to county officials last week, the employee alleged Taylor instructed her to destroy records so they could not be given to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in response to request made under the Georgia Open Records Act.

The documents, which were obtained by the AJC, show that Taylor kept $425,000 in passport fees as personal compensation over the past two years, and shared none of that money with the county’s general fund budget — a break from her processor, who shared about half of the fees collected under her administration.

State law allows clerks to keep the fees as income, but distinguishes them from additional shipping charges residents pay to receive passports in an expedited fashion.

“We’ve since learned the GBI is looking into those allegations, and I look forward to this matter being rectified and the county getting answers on whether the general fund is due any of those fees,” Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said in a statement.

The AJC investigation found that Taylor kept $84,000 in expedited shipping fees, which she later said were taken “in error” and offered to return to the county.

Taylor canceled the vote on returning the fees during the commission board meeting last week, after officials received the complaint.

The whistleblower also alleged that the county manager “personally called to inform her” she was on administrative leave following her refusal to delete the records at Taylor’s orders.

In a statement, county spokesman Ross Cavitt said that County Manager Jackie McMorris did not place the whistleblower on administrative leave, contrary to what the letter suggested. Cavitt said the county government has no control over the operations or hiring practices of the superior court clerk, which is an independently elected constitutional office.