SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah Attorney Brent Savage says it’s a case that still shocks him when he talks about the details.
“How can you steal from orphans? How can you do that,” he says.
Savage represented 11 plaintiffs in a recent civil case involving the former Chief Clerk of Probate Court in Chatham County, Kim Birge.
In July of 2015, Birge pled guilty to theft and is serving a six-year sentence in federal prison.
Savage says the worst part of the story is that money was taken from minors the court was supposed to protect. It was money from insurance and court settlements that children had received and that the court was supposed to make sure was held in safe keeping until the young people turned 18 years of age.
Instead, Savage says the money was stolen. He said five victims were children of parents who had died in the Imperial Sugar explosion.
“These were children who had lost their fathers,” he said. “The largest victim was Matthew Drayton, $232,000 was the exact amount of insurance that she (Birge) stole.”
Machelle Moore is the aunt of Matthew Drayton who dealt with Birge beginning in April of 2011 after Moore’s sister (Matthew’s mother) died of a heart attack. Moore says her sister left a large insurance policy for the care of Matthew.
Moore says she still remembers the day she found out the money had been stolen. “I felt like somebody had just taken my whole heart,” she said. “How do you go home and tell a nine-year-old that has lost his mom a single woman who has worked hard all her life to provide for him and now there’s not a dime.”
The settlement reached this week says that plaintiffs can receive the proceeds from the sale of Birge’s home but that her husband may live in the home until his death. Plaintiffs are also supposed to receive half of the $60,000 pension that Birge was set to receive from Chatham County. At this point, however, Birge has been denied that pension.
Moore thanked Savage for helping the plaintiffs and said she was disappointed and upset that her family went through this.
“I didn’t go look for her (Birge). I followed the law and went to her. They gave me to her and somewhere down the line they knew she was a thief,” said Moore.
Savage told us that court evidence indicates as far back as 2008 questions were being asked about Birge. He said that included a lawsuit n which it was alleged Birge had taken up to $190,000.