The Hall County Sheriff’s Office has charged the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center’s business manager with carrying out unauthorized activities related to personnel records.
Lakita Edwards was arrested without incident by deputies at her home on Dana Drive in East Hall after Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice investigators took out warrants.
Edwards, 33, was charged with nine counts of making false acknowledgements or oath by an authorized officer, state officials stated in a news release issued Sunday.
She is accused of forging the signature of the RYDC’s personnel technician onto job applicant background packets, applying unauthorized notary seals to those packets, then submitting the documents to DJJ’s Central Office for processing.
“This type of unethical business practice will not be tolerated anywhere in the workplace in this agency, regardless of employee rank or position,” said DJJ Commissioner Avery D. Niles.
“I gave clear warning when I came on board last month that policy violators at DJJ will face serious consequences. There is no room here for corrupt or criminal behavior.”
Niles said, “I also endorse a policy for transparency in this department when we must take strong measures like this arrest.”
The document forgeries were first discovered during an internal DJJ review process.
A Central Office staff member determined that the Gainesville RYDC personnel technician whose signature had been forged on the packets had been on extended leave July 1-Oct. 1, when the pre-employment packets in question were processed and submitted.
“Our investigators found there was no way the Gainesville RYDC personnel technician could have signed and sealed those packets while away on leave,” Niles said.
“A closer examination by our internal affairs uncovered a total of nine packets with forged signatures and unauthorized seals.”
Niles said DJJ investigators “have determined this was an isolated incident involving an employee who acted alone in an apparent attempt to circumvent the department’s system of checks and balances.”
“No evidence was found to suggest the employee sought or received any personal gain from the forgeries.”
DJJ staff has reviewed all the pre-employment documents submitted by Edwards and completed supplementary background clearances for each job applicant who came through the Gainesville RYDC office at that time, according to the news release.
The “DJJ has determined that no viable candidates received special treatment or were negatively impacted by the forgery incidents or the subsequent investigation,” the release states.
Edwards, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has been released on a $9,200 bond, said Sgt. Kiley Sargent, a Hall sheriff’s office spokesman.
According to the DJJ, she will be on suspension pending further administrative action.