JONESBORO — Mary Byrd resigned from her position as director of Clayton County Senior Services days before county commissioners were set to consider firing her following an arrest on forgery and bribery charges, Chairman Jeff Turner has confirmed.
Byrd was placed on unpaid administrative leave in early July after the county’s internal auditing department discovered “withdrawal discrepancies” with a Senior Services account. She was charged with 13 counts of forgery in the fourth degree and one count of bribery and turned herself in to police July 19.
She tendered her resignation Aug. 1.
Turner said the commission had been looking into the situation and was going to address its options Tuesday if Byrd hadn’t resigned. One of the options was terminating her employment, he said.
“We probably would have addressed it with the intent to terminate,” said Turner.
Instead of trying to figure out what to do about Byrd, commissioners spent Tuesday trying to figure out what to do about Senior Services in the fallout of her resignation. They unanimously voted to appoint Senior Services Assistant Director Tori Strawter as interim director.
Strawter served as unofficial interim director while Byrd was on administrative leave.
“She had held the fort down until we could meet and officially name her as the interim director, and she’s been doing a good job since Mary was placed on administrative leave,” said Turner.
There is no set timeline for how long it will take to find a new permanent director for senior services. Turner said a search will go on for “as long as it takes to find a qualified person” but he could not offer a time frame for when he would like to have the position filled.
Whoever is named permanent director will oversee a department that operates four facilities and conducts numerous activities for area senior citizens. The facilities and activities attract seniors from not only Clayton County, but from neighboring counties as well.
“Whether it’s internally or externally, we are going to make sure we find somebody who is the best fit for the Senior Services Department for Clayton County,” said Turner.
Police have accused Byrd of bribing an employee with $200 to lie to investigators about the audit, according to court documents. The allegations came as a shock to some because Byrd has rarely been the subject of public controversy. The Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services recognized Byrd with its 2012 Beverly Littlefield Award for excellence in program development and operations.
Turner said there had been a “should we or shouldn’t we?” moment when he was considering recommending termination of her employment. He said it might have seemed “logical” to terminate her, but no notice had been sent to her saying that would happen before she resigned.
“She’s always done a good job in terms of my interactions that I’ve had with her when I was the chief of police and now as the chairman, so yeah, I was shocked and very disappointed that it came to this point,” Turner said.
Byrd’s attorney, William McKenney, was unavailable for comment.