A Wheeler County jury on Thursday acquitted Alamo's former mayor of taking more than $68,000 in salary that she wasn't entitled to.
According to District Attorney Tim Vaughn, Alamo City Council cut Mayor Debbie Fountain's salary from around 50,000 a year to 3,600 in December 2013.
More than a year later, he said, a citizens group learned that Fountain was still getting paid her old salary. During that time, Vaughn said, she was paid around $73,000 but should have received around $4,800.
The GBI searched city hall in May 2015, and Fountain and city clerk Gail Brown were both arrested three months later. In 2016, a Wheeler County grand indicted the pair on charges of felony theft by taking.
Mayor Fountain never informed the city clerk, Gail Brown, that she was still receiving the older salary, Vaughn said,
When Fountain was arrested, Vaughn said, "She confessed, in my opinion... that she drew the money and she knew she wasn't supposed to."
Fountain and Brown were both tried this week and acquitted after a two-day trial.
Vaughn declined to comment on the verdict, except to say, "I presented the facts, and the jury made their decision."
According to Vaughn, Fountain was first elected mayor in 2007, when the salary was $3,600.
After she won a second term in 2011, the city council decided that Alamo, population about 2,700, needed a city administrator and hired Fountain to do the job. Her salary was increased to $42,000 a year.
But a citizens group complained that, by law, Fountain couldn't be both an elected official and an employee. They also argued that the council could not increase her salary in the middle of a term. The pay raise could only only take affect after the next election.
In December 2013, the council agreed and knocked the mayor's salary back to $3,600.
However, she still received the higher salary until February, 2015.
Fountain's lawyer, Frank Hogue, said the Alamo council did not follow proper procedure in cutting Fountain's salary.
He also says that she performed the city administrator's duties for all of the time she received the higher salary.
She was re-elected to a third term in 2015 after beng arrested, Hogue said.
However, Gov. Nathan Deal removed her from office after her indictment.