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Closure in probe of elections office
Ex-director: County resolution can't undone harm
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Forsyth County News


Forsyth County has officially put to rest an investigation into its former elections director.

Gary J. Smith said the resolution, which county commissioners approved at a work session Tuesday, is "appropriate" and shows they have "taken the right steps to right a wrong."

He added that the commission's action won't erase what happened as a result of the 2008 audit that triggered a request for a federal investigation into the elections department.

"[It] will not fix all of the harm that's been done to me and my family and also my reputation in the elections community by these frivolous actions that were not righted by the past board," Smith said.

An internal controls review conducted in 2008 by Sawyer & Co. of Dawsonville found, among other items, two "material weaknesses" in the elections department.

The report included recommendations regarding the department, which involved consulting agreements between Smith and outside agencies, as well as Smith's time-keeping records.

On June 30, 2009, following the release of the audit, the commission asked the U.S. Department of Justice to check for possible "legal, ethical and policy violations."

Noting that the county never heard back from federal authorities, Chairman Brian Tam said "it's reasonable to assume they have no interest in looking at this matter."

Tam added that the commission "needed to bring some closure" to the issue.

The resolution states: "Forsyth County wishes to affirmatively declare that it deems the investigatory matter closed, out of a sense of fairness," and that "Forsyth County has no intention to further pursue same."

The county also agreed to reimburse Smith for any attorney fees "related to matters arising out of his service to the county."

Commissioners capped that amount at $10,000 in approving the resolution, which passed 4-1 with Commissioner Jim Boff opposed.

Boff did not think the county should pay any of Smith's legal expenses.

Smith said the fees will not compensate for lost job opportunities due to a tarnished reputation in his field or other harm that resulted.

"They were trying to punish me for something that never occurred," he said. "I don't know how ... anybody makes up for all of that that's been done."