Tuten sent notice to the governor’s office Friday, said his defense attorney, Danny Durham. The voluntary action means Gov. Nathan Deal will not have to go through the process of appointing a committee to investigate and advise him on the question of suspension of an elected official, Durham said.
“This will be better for everyone,” he said.
Georgia law regarding indicted public officials states that the person can waive the review process and accept suspension. While the case is pending, the official still collects his salary. If convicted, the official’s
position is terminated.
The voluntary suspension created some confusion.
District Attorney Ashley Wright said she wasn’t sure what effect Tuten’s move will have and has asked the state attorney general’s office for an opinion.
Probate Court Judge Harry B. James III said Monday that he cannot appoint anyone to fill the rest of Tuten’s four-year term, which
began in 2012, until the office is vacant – and it isn’t officially vacant, James said.
Assistant Coroner Mark Bowen is currently in charge of the office.
A Richmond County grand jury returned an indictment last month accusing Tuten of keeping property of the dead whose heirs were not immediately known, and of
charging fees that are not authorized by law.
The indictment alleges eight counts of thefts and five counts of violation of his oath of office from 2005 through May. Tuten has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is free on a $30,000 bond.
Tuten was a deputy coroner for 26 years before being elected coroner in 2004.