Finance committee recommends accepting insurance payment for missing clerk's office money

The Glynn County Finance Committee recommended the Glynn County Commission accept the second payment from an insurance policy payout to replace money stolen from the Superior Court Clerk’s office.

In total, the county has $925,000 in bonds and insurance it can call on to replace the $1.2 million missing from the clerk’s accounts. On Tuesday, the finance committee recommended the commission accept the final payment of $225,000 from its $500,000 crime coverage policy with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

Former Deputy Clerk Darren Jones first reported that money was missing from accounts managed by the clerk’s office in 2014. Lola Jamsky, the clerk at the time, requested in 2015 that the Glynn County commission reimburse the funds. The request was denied.

A forensic audit conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation indicated $673,000 was missing from the clerk’s accounts, but a subsequent audit paid for by Glynn County put the total at roughly $1.2 million.

Former clerk’s office bookkeeper Larry Morten pled guilty to 70 counts of theft from the office in September and was ordered to pay the county $150,000 in restitution.

It is far short of the $1.2 million, but Lalaine Brionus with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia — which handled the prosecution against Morten — said the only person both state and federal bureaus of investigation could identify as a culprit was Morten.

The committee recommended accepting the payment 2-0. Allen Booker was absent.

Committee member Peter Murphy voted in favor but wanted to discuss it further at the county commission’s Nov. 1 meeting. He said the county should be able to get more money out of the ACCG policy and wanted to look more closely at it before the commission votes on it.

Because the $1.2 million loss happened over a period of several years, Murphy said the policy should cover the thefts from each year individually as opposed to the $1.2 million total.

“Why don’t we get 100 percent coverage, because the theft each year did not go above $500,000, the level of our coverage?” Murphy asked.

In other business, the finance committee recommended $696,705 in spending on a St. Simons Island Pier Village drainage project.

The project will likely stop up traffic and impede pedestrians, but the drainage repairs and upgrades are much needed, Murphy said.

While work was originally slated to begin next week, Public Works Director Dave Austin said it will start sometime before the end of the year and be finished before spring break in March.

The committee also recommended making some changes to Blythe Island Regional Park fees.

If approved, nightly, weekly and monthly rates for RV campsites would go up while half-day rentals for park pavilions would be eliminated on the first day of January 2019. The Recreation and Parks Department also wants to create a $7 per night fee to dock boats overnight.

A reduced “sunset” admission fee for all pools is also part of the plan. Admission to the county’s three pools would be reduced during the two hours before closing.

Committee members also voted to recommend the county commission:

• Carry forward more than $3.5 million in committed expenditures from the previous fiscal year into the current Fiscal Year 2019;

• Approve $200,000 in spending to improve Sea Island Road’s intersections with Hamilton Road and Hamilton Landing Drive;

• Accept a donation of a Belgian Malinois puppy to be trained as a K9 officer

• Authorize county staff to bypass the contract bidding process and select a specialist to help the county decide how to spend a $2.5 million beach restoration grant.

The next meeting of the finance committee is scheduled for Nov. 27.

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