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Judge-elect faces ethics investigation
Residents of Camden County are wondering what will become of the office of probate judge with the arrival of 2013.

Camden County Probate Judge-elect Shirley Wise has been accused of nine ethics violations by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The investigation concluded that formal proceedings should be held to determine whether she is guilty of violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, according to the notice sent to Wise on Friday.

She is accused of the following violations:

* Inducing a county employee to submit false invoices and then submitting them to the county for payment of work.

* Receiving monetary kickbacks from a vendor on at least three occasions.

* Directing an employee to cut out the signature of Probate Judge Martin Gillette from previously signed court documents and affixing the fraudulent signatures to the new documents and file them with the court.

* Ordering an employee to forge Gillette's signature.

* Improperly using county property and/or county employees for her campaign to run for probate judge in July.

* Refusing to perform wedding ceremonies and referring the individuals to certain for-profit wedding facilities for their financial benefit.

* Allowing, without legal authority, certain wedding facilities in Camden County to operate for profit to serve as satellite courthouses.

* Ilegally providing pre-signed Georgia marriage license applications and affidavits for marriage licenses to for-profit wedding facilities for completion.

* Violating the state Code of Judicial Conduct and oath of office.

Wise declined to comment about the accusations on the advice of her lawyer, Jim Stein.

Stein said he is uncertain how long it will take for the case to be heard before the commission in Atlanta or how it will affect Wise, who is scheduled to be sworn in before Gillette retires in January.

"I don't know what their time schedule is," he said of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. "We have the right to face our accusers and we don't know, at this point in time, who they are. I can't make statements that we don't know anything about."

Gillette, who is retiring as judge at the end of the year, declined comment.

"I don't want to tarnish this office by saying anything," he said.

Jeffrey Davis, director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, was out of the office Monday and could not be reached for comment.

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