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Roswell takes first step in reorganizing city court
by Joan Durbin
jdurbin@neighbornewspapers.com
September 25, 2013 02:14 PM | 1520 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The day-to-day clerical functions of Roswell’s municipal court will be handed over to the private firm that also has the contract for the same services in Sandy Springs.

Currently, the city employs a chief clerk of courts, six deputy clerks, a part-time clerk and an administrative assistant.

The Jacobs Group will supply a clerk of courts, three deputy clerks and a part-time clerk at a cost savings to the city of almost $134,000 annually, according to Roswell’s Assistant City Administrator Michael Fischer.

“We have had a reduced amount of workload in that department, unfortunately. That’s something we have to take care of and be mindful of tax dollars,” Councilman Rich Dippolito said before making the motion to outsource, which passed unanimously.

.“It is my understanding that current employees will be able to apply to Jacobs, work for them and still work within the city of Roswell,” Councilman Jerry Orlans said to Fischer, who confirmed that would be possible.

Marshals for the court will remain city employees, but will be moved from city administration to the police department.

Cost for the Jacobs contract is not to be more than $405,609.

In a related topic, council members voted to call for a special election for municipal court judge, a position that has been filled with interim personnel since becoming vacant when Judge Maurice Hilliard resigned August 5.

The special election would be on the ballot on May 20, the day of 2014’s general primaries.

But council members hedged their bets by including language in the resolution that says the election would be held “if necessary.”

They are waiting to get results of a study being done by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government analyzing the pros and cons of both elected and appointed city judges. Fischer said that study should be ready for presentation by Oct. 30.

The city charter requires an elected municipal judge, but City Attorney David Davidson told council that state law trumps the charter, and the state says council may appoint the magistrate.

Roswell’s former judge takes a much different view.

In an email to council members prior to Monday’s vote, Hilliard said the charter mandates the judge’s election and they had sworn to uphold the city charter when taking office.

“To do what is being proposed would be a deliberate conscious decision to violate your oath of office,” he wrote.

“It is a violation of state law to willfully violate your oath of office.. . The real question is whether or not you can violate the clear provisions of the City Charter with a clear conscience."”

Davidson told council that if they did decide to appoint a judge, as is their right under state law, they should consider amending the charter to bring it in line with that decision.

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