On Monday, five of six of them voted to postpone the issue until the council meeting on Sept. 23 in order to give them more time to digest additional information.
According to the city charter, they have until Oct. 4 to call a special election to replace Maurice Hilliard, who resigned as city judge early this month.
But the city’s attorneys said state law does not require such an election, and that supersedes the charter.
If council wanted to get the election on the November ballot, the special election would have to be called this week, and potential candidates would have to qualify by Friday.
“I am open to an appointed judge, but I’m very concerned about making that decision right now,” said Councilman Kent Igleheart.
“I’m not comfortable putting on the election for November,” Councilwoman Becky Wynn said. “I’d like to have more information about the pros and cons of an elected versus an appointed judge. Right now I’m not married to one way or the other.”
If council on Sept. 23 does opt for the election, it could be held in either March or May of 2014, said Assistant City Attorney Bob Hulsey.
The only council member who voted against the deferral for more discussion was Councilwoman Betty Price.
“According to our charter, we are required to call a special election, if we are still following our charter,” she said.
Council approved appointing a list of stand-by judges to preside over municipal court to preside in the interim.
Price also said that if council intended to consider an appointed judge, city voters should have a say in that decision.
“If there is any movement towards an appointed judge, I think at least we should run it by the electorate for their approval,” Price said.
Council is having a special called meeting this morning (Wednesday) at 9 a.m. to talk about putting that question to voters.
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Jere Wood, who will be out of town on Wednesday, said the city’s legal department had found an attorney general’s opinion that non-binding questions, such as this issue of an appointed judge, can not be placed on an official ballot.
Hulsey said City Attorney David Davidson was drafting a memo to that effect for mayor and council.
In a related matter, council on Monday also postponed a decision on outsourcing court services to the Jacobs Group, which handles Sandy Springs’ court functions.
That reorganization would reduce the number of full time positions in Roswell’s court system from 16 to 13, meaning some current employees could be out of a job. Those employees now will wait until Sept. 23 to hear whether council approves the measure.
“Because this is a major decision, we owe it to everyone to have full information,” Igleheart said.