Clinch Commissioners hope business will return to normal - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Clinch Commissioners hope business will return to normal

July 26, 2007

Homerville - The Clinch County Commission Chairman says a secret account created by their Superior Court Judge gave county department heads money that was denied in commission meetings or not included in their annual budget. 

Since the account has now been brought to public attention and is under investigation, they now hope commission meetings will return to business as usual.

Clinch County Commissioners say their Superior Court Judge Brooks Blitch and his clerk of court  maintained a secret account for years.  "That account was set up with fees added to fines that are collected in Clinch County and was controlled by Judge Blitch," says Clinch County Commission Chairman John Strickland.

The judge signed orders spending the money on everything from a new patrol car for the sheriff department to new furniture for his own office, allowing many county officials to bypass the budget process and go directly to the judge for handouts. 

"It was a way to get funds that they weren't able to get from the board of commissioners.  And several occasions the board did deny a request from the department heads because the money was not there an budgeted that."

Even though county commissioners often questioned its legality.  "He told me the funds were in that account, he didn't know if it was legal to do that but he was going to do it anyway," Strickland says.

It was finally brought to public attention when the Clinch County Commission discovered the account also paid five employees nearly 70-thousand dollars over the last six year.  "Some of them getting $250.00, others getting $300.00 a month."

Since, the FBI has executed a search warrant at the judges office in Homerville and a Federal Grand Jury is probing the Alapaha Judicial Circuit.  County Commissioners now hope the investigation will lead to the account being dissolved and the budget process returning to normal.

No charges have yet been filed in the investigation.

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