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Newton clerk will not reveal how passport fees spent

COVINGTON -- In Newton County, passport applications are taken by the Superior Court Clerk's Office. But Superior Court Clerk Linda Hays has said she will not disclose how passport fees are spent.

The Citizen filed an Open Records request asking Hays for the number of passports processed per year during the last five years and the amount of fees collected during that time.

Hays has stated she will provide that information no later than April 20.

But Hays said a request by the Citizen for documentation detailing how and to whom those fees were dispersed and spent does not fall under the Open Records Act.

In a letter sent to the Citizen on April 12, Hays cites a section of Georgia law defining public records as those prepared and maintained or received in the course of the operation of a public office or agency, or items received or maintained by a private person or entity on behalf of a public office or agency.

"My personal records regarding the expenditure of passport processing fees ... are neither prepared and maintained or received in the course of the operation of Newton County nor are they maintained by me on behalf of Newton County," Hays stated.

The passport application fee is $25.

Hays, an elected official who is paid with taxpayer money, also declined to turn over information regarding her annual income. The Citizen requested any and all documents related to the clerk's annual income, including income from passport fees. Tax returns and schedules attached to the 1040 form were included in the request. Hays said tax returns are private and their confidentiality protected by federal law.

The Citizen has filed an Open Records request with Newton County for any documentation related to passport fee collection as well as Hays' annual income.

Hays said she would provide the Citizen with documentation proving that she has been certified as required to process passports.

Hays has not responded to a request for an interview with the Citizen regarding passport fees.

According to the website for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, passports are issued Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the clerk's office, located in the Newton County Judicial Center.

Comments

Megirl 2 years, 5 months ago

She makes six figures and it is well known. Throw her out along with every incumbent on the school board, the BOC and clean up this town. Board chairs holding illegal meetings and not returning voter emails. BOC chair and commissioners arguing over leglaity of Cook Road. Throw them out and start over and keep an eye on the ones left behind. Bad move for her as this is an election year. She makes enough to run expensive ads seeking re election

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Frustrated 2 years, 5 months ago

Wonder what shes trying to hide?

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antdrewhar 2 years, 5 months ago

Has she broken a law or done anything illegal? The answer is 'NO'. Why is this worth discussing in such a negative manner?

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John 2 years, 5 months ago

Look very suspicious from here. She is working on behalf of the county & being paid by the taxpayers of the county & collecting "fees". The $$ belongs to the county (aka taxpayers), it is not for personal gain.

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dennistay53 2 years, 5 months ago

This is why i like this paper and Mrs Tatum's reporting. I like what i am seeing from some people in this county as well as the reporting. I have been waiting since 1996 to see citizens wanting to see corrupt and hidden agendas from some of our local elected officials brought out in the open. She is not going to say where the money goes becaus this is election year. Even if she does not have to honor the open records request, you would think that as an elected official she would be open with the voters. The only reason i can think that she wouldn't be open would be that she is keeping some or all of it to supplement her income. Just think, the citizens of this county voted in a SPLOST, much of which is going to add to the court house. Come on Mrs Hayes- come clean. Voters, if she doesn't we need to remember it come election.

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Del 2 years, 5 months ago

She's part of the newton county good ole boy network. ....let's see she's been in office for 5 decades

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mgh1966 2 years, 5 months ago

may be the Grand Jury can find out. It just takes 8 members of the Grand Jury to Start an investgation.

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Covingtonian 2 years, 5 months ago

Although I don't like the fact that clerks can keep part of the passport money it is legal. If people don't like it they should get in touch with their state lawmakers to change the law. It's ironic that said lawmakers will not put a cap on lobbyist spending which too is legal but I feel isn't right. One other thing, many years ago LEO could get paid a reward of I believe $25 for capturing an AWOL soilder and some collected this bounty along with their regular salaries so what's the difference? I think this practice is still on the books if you'd like to check

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John 2 years, 5 months ago

So then no one, including the President, should complain or be critical of Mitt Romney of only paying 13.9% income tax in 2010. He did nothing illegal, our tax laws permit him, along with many others, to take advantage of "loopholes".

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