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Byrd on admin leave over ‘withdrawal discrepancies’

Mary Byrd

Mary Byrd

— The head of Clayton County’s Senior Services department is on unpaid administrative leave after an internal audit raised questions about a bank account associated with the department.

Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said the county’s internal auditing department has been performing audits on each department and found “withdrawal discrepancies” with a Senior Services account.

While he would not go into the details of allegations made against Director Mary Byrd, he said he was made aware of them two weeks ago. He said he was not sure how much money is believed to have been involved.

She was placed on leave last week pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, he said.

“Mary Byrd is still the director of senior services pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, although she’s on unpaid administrative leave,” said Turner.

The investigation is expected to be completed within 30 days, said Turner. Assistant Director Tori Strawter will oversee the department in the interim period.

There is an added specter to Byrd’s tale because it was the catalyst for one county commissioner to question why she was put on leave when the same wasn’t done to police Chief Greg Porter when an investigation was opened on him last year. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is still investigating him on a separate matter.

The commissioner’s complaint led to his being placed on unpaid administrative leave Wednesday.

But Byrd has rarely ever found herself the subject of public criticism or scrutiny. The one exception was two and a half years ago, when she took the brunt of scorn from Southern Crescent senior citizens after the county commission voted to make dramatic increases in senior center fees.

That’s what makes the auditor’s allegations so surprising to Turner.

“Senior Services has been an outstanding department and Mary Byrd has been a really good department head, so it is kinda shocking to hear these accusations made against her,” said Turner. “But we owe it to our citizens to follow up on this and do an investigation. It’s about accountability and being transparent with the taxpayers.

“If the investigation clears her of wrongdoing, then she will return to her job,” he continued. “If it doesn’t, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”