Commissioner Trying To Change Site For Birth, Death Certificates PDF Print E-mail
News - Local News
Friday, 10 November 2017 14:41
The place where Chattooga County residents obtain copies of their birth and death certificates may change, if Commissioner Jason Winters is successful.
Currently vital records are available at the courthouse in Probate Judge John Payne's office. The commissioner wants to move them after learning the judge was legally depositing vital record fees into a personal bank account. 
Instead of the public getting those records from Payne's office, Winters wants the local health department to provide them.
"I'm not 100-percent sure if we will get to. But we are looking for the health department to administer that," Winters said.  
In most Georgia counties, residents either obtain copies of their birth and death certificates at the probate office or health department.
The probate judge charges $25 for a copy of a birth certificate -- per state law. The commissioner believes that $25 fee could help offset the operational cost of the health department. In addition to Payne's approximate $100,000 salary, during the last two years Payne received an additional $76,233, according to Winters.
"I have taken actions to begin the process of requesting the transfer of the local custodian service from the probate judge's office to the Chattooga County Department of Health. If this change is made, the fees received by the health department could ultimately be used to help offset county contributions to the health department," Winters said.
Out of the 159 counties in Georgia, 113 probate judges serve as the vital records custodian. Whether these judges keep all the money or give a portion to the county treasury varies.
At the end of October, Commissioner Winters passed a resolution limiting Payne's ability to keep the money given by the public for copies of their birth and death certificates. 
In addition to the judge's annual salary, Payne can only collect $7,500 off vital records. The remainder goes to the county.
The judge claims this recent controversy is part of "casting a shadow" onto Winters' biggest tax hike. It's no coincidence that Winters produced his resolution the same week tax bills were mailed to property owner, Payne said.
"Please continue to comment through this office as to any resolution of the remaining issues which are retention of the fees collected prior to Oct. 20, 2017 and the necessity of filing any reports for prior periods before entry of your resolution and your long awaited apology," Atty. Palmour wrote.
Winters said there will not be an apology.

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