Former DeKalb court clerk sues successor
9:16 am, April 20th, 2011
Former DeKalb County Superior Court Clerk Linda Carter has sued the woman who now holds that title, Debra DeBerry, alleging that DeBerry tricked her into resigning from the job.
Carter sued DeBerry in her official capacity and individually, and seeks unspecified damages. Carter also sued Gov. Nathan Deal, seeking a writ of mandamus to remove DeBerry from office and to compel official recognition of Carter’s “status as the rightful elected Clerk.” The complaint alleges that Deal accepted the letter of resignation without knowing it was “null and void.”
Carter is represented by A. Lee Parks and James E. Radford Jr. of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. The suit, filed in DeKalb Superior Court, does not list counsel for DeBerry.
DeBerry’s chief deputy clerk, Rick Setser, who also serves as her public information officer, said the county attorney had advised both him and DeBerry not to comment.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I’ve spoken to Ms. DeBerry, and she is eager to clear her name.”
Parks, in an earlier conversation with the Daily Report, said Carter suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and would not have left willingly, as she was two years shy of vesting in her pension and medical benefits. The complaint alleges that on the afternoon of March 24, Deputy Clerk Lisa Oakley—who is not a defendant in the suit—“acting on instructions from DeBerry” and with knowledge that “Carter was suffering from a temporary episode of dementia,” asked her to sign a letter of resignation.
“The letter was presented to Carter as a routine business document … its contents were obscured from Carter’s view. Oakley, acting on DeBerry’s instructions, did not inform Carter that she was being asked to sign a letter of resignation. … Oakley, acting on DeBerry’s instructions, and knowing that Carter did not know or understand the document’s content … indicated some urgency in having Carter sign the document.”
Oakley was not immediately available for comment.
The complaint alleges that on the evening that Carter signed her resignation letter, her husband, John Carter, came to pick her up from work and Oakley escorted her to the car. Oakley told Carter’s husband that “DeBerry had ordered that Oakley have Carter sign a letter of resignation.”
Also, allegedly on DeBerry’s instructions, Oakley said that Chief Judge Mark Anthony Scott “had ordered the Sheriff of DeKalb County, Georgia, to forcibly remove Carter from office.”
Scott said he did not even learn about Carter’s resignation until after it had been tendered and that he neither attempted to remove Carter from office nor ordered the sheriff to do so. He said he did not even have that authority. “I read those allegations. I do not know where they come from,” he said.
According to the complaint, when Carter’s husband called Setser, the chief deputy clerk, to discuss the circumstances of the resignation, Setser allegedly said he and DeBerry jointly created the letter and agreed to have Carter sign it “to avoid media inquiries into Carter’s medical condition.”
The case, Carter v. DeBerry, 11cv4584, has been assigned to DeKalb Superior Judge Daniel R. Coursey Jr.