Circuit clerk charged with embezzlement

Published 10:31 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins has beenindicted on eight counts of embezzlement by a public official,according to authorities and court records.

The amount of the allegedly embezzled funds totaled more than$131,000, although a large portion of the money has since been paidto the county as required.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said Watkins, 56, was arrestedTuesday around 4:45 p.m. She was released on her own recognizanceunder the authority of Judge William Coleman, the sheriffsaid.

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According to a short press release from District Attorney DeeBates’ office, Watkins’ indictment does not require her to resignor be removed from office while the case is pending. The releasepointed out, as in all criminal cases, that the accused is innocentuntil proven guilty.

Watkins declined to comment on the case.

When contacted, Bates indicated the indictment was unfortunate, butnecessary.

“It’s never fun to see an individual indicted, but we’re going todo our job,” Bates said.

The indictment alleges Watkins embezzled a total of $131,148 duringeight separate incidents between May 2004 and April 2006. Six ofthe incidents are alleged to have happened in 2004, one in 2005 andone in 2006.

The counts contend Watkins failed to turn over funds belonging tothe county and unlawfully withdrew funds from county criminal andcivil accounts and placed them in the circuit clerk’s operatingaccount.

However, officials said the funds related to the 2005 and 2006charges have been paid, but initially were not paid to the countyin a timely manner as required by law. Those amounts totaled morethan $72,000.

The state Auditor’s Office initiated and conducted the underlyinginvestigation in the case. Officials with that office had nocomment on the case.

Watkins is in her fourth term as circuit clerk.

Coleman was named to preside over the case after local CircuitJudges Michael Taylor and David Strong recused themselves from thecase.

“Both of the circuit judges recused themselves and asked the(state) Supreme Court to appoint a judge to hear the case,” Batessaid.