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Records researcher arrested after court documents missed

Posted: June 17, 2013 - 11:07am  |  Updated: June 17, 2013 - 1:36pm

A courthouse researcher was charged with theft of public documents after records related to 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 Company, 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 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 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 Friday night.
Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris said only the index reference cards were missing and that all original property records are accounted for.
Waldron's employer, Lawyers Abstract Company, was 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 has already begun repairs while lawyers determine who owns the road and who bears finanical responsibility for its restoration.
A document filed in the Clerk of Court's Office in 1991 transfers to the county 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.
However, a plat also filed in the clerk's office in 1999 transfers ownership of Lakestone Court to the county.
In an interview last week with the Columbia County News-Times, County Administrator Scott Johnson said 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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