SAVANNAH: Disgraced ex probate clerk sues for reinstatement of pension. An ex probate clerk with Chatham County is suing to have her pension reinstated. This story about the theft was originally ran back in August 2015 – Ex Probate Clerk admits $232,000 theft. The total theft detailed by government though ran to around $750,000 this was inclusive individual losses.
The action challenges the denial, based on convictions, of her county pension. On behalf of ex probate clerk Burge and her husband (Lawrence Franklin Birge) it was filed last Thursday 28th. Chatham County is named (Chatham County Pension Board). It requests a judge to consider the facts and a further hearing. The hearing to establish as to why the Pension Board should withhold and/or not provide her pension. Birge’s length of service took in 19th July 1982 through to her dismissal on 2nd December 2014. A guilty plea was entered on July 31, 2015 in Federal Court. The theft took place over a three year period.
Restitution was set at over $750,000 along with a 6 year sentence within a Federal prison. As part of a plea deal (mail fraud) remaining counts were dismissed. Individual victims totalled 33. Additionally 2 estates along with Chatham County Probate Court. All endured loss as a consequence of her conduct. The funds involved never, at any time, belonged to the court. Actual restitution was set at $751,715.95. However officials at Chatham County set the figure higher. They contend that Chatham County was relieved of $113,000 and individuals lost $890,000.
The ex probate clerk applied for for the benefits (retirement plan) on 15th January 2015 and was further denied on 26th January 2015. After appealing she was again denied on 30th March. The suit claims amongst other things that the denial is an illegal attempt to exercise discretion forbidden by Georgia law. Also that it was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. The county has put forward the “criminal conduct and fraud” that are specifically detailed in the plan.
The board further has the power to reduce any sum by 3 times the amount. Therefore the sum in question would be far in excess of any potential seizure. A victim of Birge’s (Clarence Bynes Jr) at sentencing told the judge it was just greed and questioned why would anyone do this to young kids. Mr Byne lost $217,000, that being the proceeds from the sale of his father’s house. He was unaware of the theft until the day of claim and was advised the money had gone.