By MARY RAINWATER
A former county employee pled guilty Monday to two felony charges — theft and the misapplication of funds totaling $32,000, which took place while she worked for the Anderson County Clerk’s office.
The former deputy county clerk, Bridget Renee Franklin, 24, of Elkhart, was terminated by County Clerk Wanda Burke in May 2011 after an investigation by the Anderson County District Attorney’s office uncovered at least 918 different occasions where money paid for marriage licenses, birth certificates and death certificates had been “skimmed” by Franklin.
By pleading guilty Franklin avoided a jury trial on the theft charges. Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.
According to Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe, who represented the state, the guilty pleas are “open” meaning there is no plea bargain on punishment between Franklin and the District Attorney’s office.
“The theft by public servant charge that Franklin plead to is a third degree felony carrying a potential punishment of two to 10 years in prison and misapplication of fiduciary funds is a state jail felony,” Lowe said. “A person found guilty of a state jail felony can be imprisoned for a minimum of 6 months up to 2 years.”
District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans, who heard Franklin’s guilty plea, set a punishment hearing for Feb. 11.
Since Franklin has not been convicted of any prior felony criminal charges, she is eligible for probation in this case. The judge can order restitution to the county as part of Franklin’s punishment.
“Franklin was the only person responsible for the thefts, and receipt processes have been changed so this sort of skimming should not happen again,” Lowe said.
Franklin, who started with the County Clerk’s office in 2006, was represented by attorney Mike Head of Athens.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org