Columbia County records researcher charged

A courthouse researcher was charged with the theft of public documents after records related to the ownership of a storm-damaged road in Barrington subdivision vanished from the Columbia County Clerk of Superior Court’s records room.

Vanessa Robin Waldron, 53, an employee of Augusta-based Lawyers Abstract Co., was charged with two counts of stealing or altering public documents and one count of making false statements or writings, according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office booking report.

Clerk of Court Cindy Mason called authorities Thursday after learning that two pages had been removed from both grantor books that contain index cards used to guide researchers to original property documents.

According to a sheriff’s office incident report, Mason told police that Waldron brought the missing pages to the attention of courthouse employees.

Mason offered to share video surveillance footage of the area with investigators, who arrested Waldron on Friday.

Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said that only the index reference cards were missing and that all original property records are accounted for.

Waldron’s employer, Lawyers Abstract Co., had been retained on behalf of the Barrington homeowners association to gather records involving a subdivision road damaged after heavy rains June 3.

A pipe beneath Lakestone Court in Barrington gave way, causing a pavement collapse that limited access to 12 homes.

The county already has begun repairs while attorneys determine who owns the road and who bears financial responsibility for its restoration.

A document filed in the clerk of court’s office in 1991 transfers to the county the ownership of the road, but not the dam from the neighboring pond running under the road, from the now-defunct Waterford Development Co. and the Barrington Home Owners Association.

The same document relieves the county of responsibility for maintenance of the dam and repair of the road if it is damaged because of dam failure.

A plat also filed in the clerk’s office in 1999, however, transfers the ownership of Lakestone Court to the county.

In an interview last week with the Columbia County News-Times, County Administrator Scott Johnson said that the damaged road is a public safety issue that the county must address immediately and that attorneys can work out ownership, responsibility and potential reimbursement later.

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