Gwinnett DA mulling charges against court reporters

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is considering filing criminal charges against two court reporters after an audit found evidence that indicated they overbilled the county for years.

Porter said he still has to review about 14 hardbound notebooks full of information from a county audit completed in March.

To file charges, prosecutors would have to prove that court reporters Pamela Lennard and Mike Ables intentionally inflated the length of court transcripts, thereby allowing them to bill the county for more pages. The audit found that those two court reporters had submitted bills for transcripts that unnecessarily included lengthy court calendars. Lennard and Ables also billed the county for transcripts they never filed, or double-billed for transcripts on several occasions, according to the audit.

The audit estimated that Lennard overbilled for $16,787 from November 2004 through January 2009; Ables overbilled by more than $7,700 during that time, it said.

In Gwinnett County, court reporters are subcontractors, not salaried employees.

"Their statements are that they did what everybody else did or that they were told to do it this way," Porter said. "We would have to prove there was intentional taking of county funds."

Lennard resigned about a year ago after glaring discrepancies in court reporter pay came to light in a series of articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ables lost his position last November when Superior Court Judge Richard T. Winegarden was voted out of office.

Lennard said last week that she did not intentionally overbill the county. She said there were no uniform guidelines for court reporters to follow, and she blamed the clerk's office for sometimes losing or duplicating transcripts.