Crawford County deputy magistrate to run court during theft investigation

lfabian@macon.comMarch 5, 2013 

With Crawford County Magistrate Andrea Peterman accused of theft, Deputy Magistrate Robin Dunaway will oversee operation of the Crawford County Magistrate Court.

Dunaway met with county administrators Tuesday to plan contingencies during the investigation into alleged theft at the court, Dunaway said.

The GBI is investigating and accounting firm Clifton, Lipford, Hardison & Parker is conducting a forensic audit for the county to determine how much money is missing, she said.

Rodney Wall, special agent in charge of the regional GBI office in Perry, said the money was taken from official funds collected by the magistrate office.

The audit will help establish a time line, but Wall did not know how long the audit will take.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission will also review the case before the matter is resolved and Peterman’s fate is determined.

In the interim, the bulk of the day-to-day operation will be handled by the civil and criminal clerks, Dunaway said.

“They are excellent and above reproach and they can keep the office going,” Dunaway said.

Peterman, 43, who took the oath of office in October, was charged Monday with fiduciary theft and violation of oath by a public officer after Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke called in the GBI to investigate theft allegations that surfaced last week.

Crawford County Sheriff Lewis Walker said his office is not part of the theft investigation.

Peterman is being jailed in an undisclosed location for her own safety, Walker said.

“You try not to put them in a situation where they are with people they’ve dealt with,” said Walker, who said alternate jail locations are also typically used when a police officer is accused of breaking the law.

Walker said it was his understanding that Peterman was still in jail Tuesday afternoon.

Peterman, of Roberta, was a former clerk of the Crawford County Probate for several years, Dunaway said.

Peterman qualified last year to face incumbent Magistrate Judge Donna Johnson, who died the day after the qualifying period ended. Another candidate, Cliff Howard, dropped out of the race.

“She didn’t win by a vote, she won by default,” Dunaway said.

Dunaway, a retired Bibb County prosecutor, took over as interim magistrate in May after Johnson’s death until Peterman took over.

Because Peterman did not have opposition, she took the oath of office before the November election and Dunaway went back to work full-time at Greenway Farms, which she operates with her husband, retired Crawford County Sheriff Kerry Dunaway.

Peterman spent last week in mandatory Magistrate Court training in Athens.

“As it stands, I’m just going to hold it together in the meantime,” Dunaway said.

If scheduling conflicts arise, Dunaway can also ask for assistance from magistrates in Taylor and Peach counties, she said.

Information from Telegraph archives and writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report. To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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