MONROE, Ga. — When Kathy Trost announced her plans to retire as clerk of Superior Court at the end of February 2019, there was no need for a special election.

State law allows for the chief deputy clerk to ascend to the role for the remainder of the term — in this case, through the end of 2020 — should the job come open less than midway through the four-year term. That opened the door for Karen David to be promoted to the clerk’s role, a constitutional office in Georgia.

But that’s not what the website for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit said at the time. Another person filled the slot.

Previous Chief Clerk Melinda Castels, however, had left that role in 2016, when she submitted two weeks’ notice — which was accepted immediately. Friday morning, the 52-year-old Good Hope resident surrendered at the county jail after her Dec. 20 indictment on charges of theft by taking and violation of her oath of office. She posted bail within hours.

District Attorney Layla Zon said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had been brought in on the case after money was found missing from the clerk’s office.

The full scope of the alleged theft has not been made public, if it’s even known. But sources close to the investigation tell The Walton Tribune it was a lot.

Zon said the investigation was complex due to the need to conduct forensic auditing.

“The long and the short of it is that she embezzled money from the clerk’s office in various ways,” Zon said.

The Tribune received a copy of Castels’ resignation letter Monday morning. In it, she cites “the need to pursue other avenues” and said “being a supervisor is very difficult in this office.”

Zon said Trost, the clerk for more than 31 years, was not implicated in the thefts.

Castels went to work for the county in 1990 in the office of the clerk of Superior Court, which maintains public records, manages court documents and collects and disburses court fees, fines and costs.

Castels did not return a request for comment via social media, and it was unclear if she had an attorney.

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