The case over who legitimately holds the position of the county’s clerk of Superior Court was settled quietly in October at a cost of $75,000 plus $10,000 in attorney fees.
DeKalb County reached a settlement with former Superior Court Clerk Linda Carter, who sued the county and current clerk Debra DeBerry to get her job back. Carter, who is being treated for early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, claimed that she was tricked into resigning during a period of dementia.
“I am glad that it’s all over,” DeBerry said. “It’s totally a sad situation.”
DeBerry, who said she still considers Carter to be a friend, said she has no hard feelings toward the former clerk.
“My hope is that she will get the necessary care that she is entitled to,” DeBerry said. “I still have a big deal of concern and love for her.”
In March, Gov. Nathan Deal’s office received a letter of resignation that purported to be from Carter.
“Effective at five o’clock p.m. on March 24, 2011, I resign the Office of Clerk of Superior Court of DeKalb County,” the five-sentence letter stated. “It has been a great privilege to serve in this capacity for over ten years.”
The letter named DeBerry, who was Carter’s chief deputy clerk, to fill the remainder of the position’s term.
In court documents, DeBerry’s lawyers argued that Carter should not be reinstated because her “dementia and her inability to understand the consequences of her actions would subject her to removal from office because of her mental incapacity.”
The settlement came after a motion to dismiss the case by DeKalb County failed to get the support of the judge in the case and a trial date had been set.
“The decision you always have to make is ‘Is it better for the client to settle the case and get on with their lives?’” said James Radford, an attorney for Carter.
The Carters decided that it was “preferable than going to trial,” Radford said.
According to the settlement agreement, “DeBerry has denied, continues to deny, and will deny Carter’s allegations as contained in the lawsuit.”
In cases where settlements are reached, “the dispute over who was right or wrong is never settled,” Radford said.
Radford said the Carter family is focusing its attention on treatment for Linda Carter.
“Luckily, she has not lost any of her personality,” Radford said. “She has lost a lot of her memory.”
Carter, a former criminal law clerk in Harris County, Texas, moved to DeKalb County in 1988. In 2000, Carter was first elected to the Superior Court clerk position and was re-elected in 2004 and 2008. Carter would have been up for re-election in 2012.
DeBerry said she also plans to run for the clerk’s office in 2012.
“That was not originally or always my plan to do but I’ve worked very hard and for many years along with many good employees in the clerk’s office to make substantial and significant changes and improvements,” DeBerry said. “I’d like to see that continue.”