Grand jury action on allegations that suspended McIntosh County Clerk of Court Rebecca McFerrin violated her oath of office has been delayed pending resolution of a petition to remove her from office, District Attorney Tom Durden said.
“We are working toward a resolution,’’ Durden said Wednesday, the day the grand jury met and handed up a number of criminal indictments.
For now, however, a trial on McFerrin’s removal remains on the calendar for July 11 in McIntosh County Superior Court, Durden said. Senior Judge Michael L. Karpf from Savannah has been appointed to conduct the trial because all the judges in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit have voluntarily recused themselves.
Should that trial go on as planned, a jury will hear the findings of a investigative panel that issued a report saying it found evidence that McFerrin had failed to enter into the court database the arrest records of people being held in jail. As a result, those defendants remained confined without the benefit of timely hearings to set bail for their release, said the panel composed of an assistant state attorney general and two Superior Court clerks.
McFerrin is also accused of instructing a deputy clerk to deliberately delay the processing of one female defendant’s records because McFerrin was angry over phone calls from the woman’s sister. The woman, who was jailed on traffic and drug charges, had recently undergone surgery and needed release for medical care.
In a petition for McFerrin’s removal that Durden filed April 18, Durden cited her action on her husband’s speeding ticket as indictable as a felony violation of her oath. A Georgia State Patrol trooper had cited James Glenn McFerrin for driving 101 mph. After the case was continued twice in State Court, it disappeared from the calendar altogether because McFerrin had deleted it from the court database, the panel said in its report.
Although his office didn’t present a proposed indictment on that alleged violation Wednesday, it doesn’t mean it won’t be brought forth later, Durden said.
“That’s not off the table altogether,’’ he said.
Durden said his office is negotiating with McFerrin and her lawyer.
McFerrin’s suspension arose after Gov. Brian Kemp appointed the panel to investigate a complaint from Chief Superior Court Judge Robert Russell and State Court Judge C. Jean Bolin that other court officials joined.
In a letter, Russell and Bolin laid out a couple of complaints, but the panel listed others in a report at the conclusion of its 30-day investigation. The panel also asserted that McFerrin had, without authority, excused so many jurors that trials could not be held, appeared unconcerned about a chaotic jury selection process, did not understand child support procedures and had signed off on court filings that required judges’ approval. Records of some hearings and other court proceedings appeared to have been lost altogether, the panel said.
In its report, the panel also said that the 30-day window to investigate McFerrin’s office was not sufficient.